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.
Are you interested in legislation regarding elder abuse? You should be because elder abuse is a growing crime and while some states have stepped up and have passed elder abuse legislation, many have not.
Lawmakers want to hear from their constituents. Let them hear from you!
To see what's going on in your state and which of your lawmakers are working for the elderly (or adult disabled) population, look for this symbol (below) on The Elder Abuse Reform Now Project's website, click it, and choose your state in the drop down box and ....Viola!
Paul Greenwood’s mother is 94 and lives alone in England. As an expert on elder abuse, Greenwood worries about her.
“She is the next perfect victim in waiting,” he says.
So, he does one simple thing daily to help keep her safe from predators. He talks to her.
For the past six years, he’s called to check in and see what’s going on in her life. For the past 2½ years they’ve done it via Facetime on her iPad mini. “This is my way of knowing that, at least today, my mother is not a victim,” he says.
Greenwood recently retired from his 22-year role as San Diego County deputy district attorney in charge of the elder abuse division. He knows from experience that seniors – especially those living alone – are targets of scammers and abuse by caregivers and relatives.
Now he is a consultant and educator on the topic of elder abuse. A native of Great Britain (who recently became a U.S. citizen), he travels the country speaking to judicial and law-enforcement organizations.
“A number of times I’ve had adult children phone me up, and they’re angry because they’ve just discovered their mother has been ripped off by their caregiver, and they start telling me the story and want me to prosecute,” Greenwood says. “I interrupt them and say, ‘Excuse me, but where were you when all this was going on?’
“And of course they make every excuse as to why they weren’t involved, why they didn’t visit their mum, why they didn’t phone regularly. That’s what these crooks or caregivers know. When they know there’s an adult son or daughter who’s not interested in their elderly parent, they will then swoop.
“I tell the adult children, ‘You’ve got to do a better job of looking out for your elderly parent.’ ”
A growing pool of targets
Elder abuse takes many forms. The most prevalent is financial exploitation. It’s the caller who gets a donation to a bogus charity, the internet scheme that gains access to an account, or a daughter or grandson with a gambling habit or drug addiction who steals jewelry, cash or credit cards. Millions of seniors are victims each year, with total losses estimated at more than $36 billion.
Then comes physical abuse, by family members, longtime friends or hired caregivers, who often lash out when confronted by the seniors who discover they’ve been ripped off by the people they’ve trusted. A report in April, by the San Diego Association of Governments’ criminal justice research division, indicated the number of reported violent crimes against seniors in the county has risen 37 percent in the past five years.
There’s also neglect, when those unable to care for themselves are left malnourished, dehydrated, over- or under-medicated or forced to live in unhealthy conditions.
Elders can become victims because their cognitive skills and memories, especially in their 80s and 90s, often have diminished. Also, they may have grown up in a time or place when they were trusting and not skeptical of people’s motives. Even people in trusted positions can be predators.
Greenwood recalls a case in San Diego more than 10 years ago when a church choir director told some of his choir members he was raising money to sponsor evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. When they contributed to his cause, he used the money to feed his gambling addiction.
More than 56 million people in the U.S. have some type of physical disability, according to the 2010 census. Whether someone needs help in the kitchen and bathroom or more space to maneuver a wheelchair around the house, here are 10 ways to make your home more handicap accessible.
Widen Doorways: Many wheelchairs and walkers are too wide to easily maneuver through doorways. Widening doorways can be a costly job (up to $1,000 in some cases), but you can use some offset hinges to help swing the door clear of the opening to inexpensively add a couple inches of space.
Build a Ramp: A ramp to a doorway will not only help those in wheelchairs, but anyone with mobility difficulties. To build a ramp you'll likely need a permit, so check local building codes before you begin construction.
Add Grab Bars: Grab bars will help with stability in the bathroom—especially around the shower and toilet. A standard 1-1/2-inch diameter bar works for most people's grip.
Install a Riser: A toilet riser can make it easier for those who have trouble bending over or standing up and sitting down. Risers can be purchased at home improvement and many drug stores, and usually cost less than $50.
Step-In Showers: Bathtubs, with their high sides, can cause problems for those with mobility issues. Instead, think about converting the space to a step-in shower. Install a shower bench for even more support.
Rethink Flooring: Rugs and thick carpeting can not only make it difficult for those in wheelchairs and with walkers, they can be a tripping hazard for everyone. Consider hardwood flooring, vinyl or ceramic tile.
Arrange Your Kitchen for Accessibility: Those looking to make their home more handicap accessible may have to make some changes to their kitchen. Try arranging appliances near the sink and counters to make tasks easier to perform. Move everyday items into lower cabinets for easy access. Lower Closet Rods: Consider lowering closet rods to make it easier to reach clothing. A height of about 2 feet from the floor will help those in wheelchairs.
Replace Knob Handles: Turning door knobs and some faucets can be a challenge for those with dexterity and hand coordination issues. Replace those round door knobs and faucet handles with lever handles.
Consider Furniture Placement: To allow ease of movement, make a path of at least 32 inches between furniture pieces. You may also need to raise furniture to help some people sit comfortably. You can achieve this with furniture coasters or small blocks of wood that are secured to the legs of the furniture.
About the Film and Filmmaker: The Guardians exposes corruption in Las Vegas municipal government’s involvement in the kidnapping of elderly people under the color of law in order to steal their estate.
In an unfolding saga that reaches to the top level of government, growing communities of Las Vegas Clark County victims come together to bring the corrupt cabal of judges, lawyers, court clerks, doctors, and nursing home employees to justice.
What investigative filmmaker Billie Mintz exposes in this documentary is how many people are involved in a systemic conspiracy against the most vulnerable members of our society.
(Billie Mintz is a documentary filmmaker, social justice advocate, and National Geographic correspondent for the show, Explorer.)
There is nothing funny about guardianship. But that didn't stop John Oliver from tackling a subject, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, that is fast becoming a problem for older Americans -- court-appointed professional guardians who have been granted legal authority to control an individual's life and finances.
Now, according to Oliver, when the system works, it's great. But when it doesn't work, well, it doesn't work at all.
Indeed, during the program, there's a video clip of Steve King, a judge in Tarrant County, Texas, saying the following: "Guardianship is a massive intrusion into a person's life... they lose more rights than someone who goes to prison."
And where things get problematic, according to Oliver, is where guardians gain control of their ward's finances. That's because, according to Oliver, private guardians can bill for each individual service they provide, from leaving voicemail messages to just opening the mail, and they can take payment directly from their ward's estate. "And those charges can accumulate fast and sometimes seem ridiculous," said Oliver, who then went on to show video clips of a guardian who charged his ward $1,027 to take go to a Phoenix Suns basketball game and to evaluate, among other things the effect the game had on the ward's mood.
And that means they, the professional guardians, are going to steal money according to Greg Kutz, a GAO investigator.
According to Oliver, the lack of oversight is worrisome given how easy it is to have a professional guardian appointed by a court and how long it takes to get out from under that guardianship. To be fair, Oliver said guardianship isn't inherently bad -- there are people who need it. But the checks and balances of court-appointed professional guardians needs, given the silver tsunami that's coming, to be improved -- from greater regulation to more funding for oversight.
What He Got Right, and Wrong So, what did Oliver get right about guardianship, what did he get wrong, and what did he fail to include but should have? We asked experts for their thoughts.
As a general matter, Oliver did a good job providing an accessible overview of guardianship, some of the problems that can occur, and steps that can be taken to reduce problems, says Nina Kohn, the associate dean for research and online education and a law professor at Syracuse University College of Law.
"However, it's important to recognize that much of the behavior Oliver described in the segment is not only immoral, it's illegal," says Kohn, who testified before the Senate Aging Committee earlier this year. "Guardians have a fiduciary duty to the individuals for whom they serve. The types of fees Oliver describes guardians charging violate this most basic legal duty."
In good news, Kohn reports that the Uniform Law Commission recently released model legislation for the states that, if adopted by the states (and Maine has already adopted it), would help prevent such fees from being paid in the first place.
"As I noted in my Senate testimony, the act limits the ability of unscrupulous guardians to drain assets by charging unreasonable fees," says Kohn. "For example, it requires courts to consider the market value of services provided by guardians before approving fees. After all, attorneys serving as guardians should not generally be paid their hourly rate to do non-legal tasks like grocery shopping."
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court has approved new rules that will require guardians and conservators to submit more information to district courts about the finances and health of protected people.
The changes announced Wednesday come as New Mexico overhauls its guardianship laws.
The system was thrust into the spotlight following a series of investigative articles published last year by the Albuquerque Journal that raised questions about the lack of oversight and transparency.
A commission created by the Supreme Court followed up with numerous recommendations, some of which were incorporated into legislation that passed early this year and will take effect next month.
Starting July 1, hearings in guardianship and conservatorship proceedings that were previously closed will be opened. Bonding requirements also will be imposed on conservators and access to court records will be expanded.
The move comes two days after Keya Morgan was arrested on suspicion of filing a false report to police.
Stan Lee on Wednesday filed for a restraining order against Keya Morgan, the man he identified just last week as the only person handling his affairs and business, a Los Angeles Superior Court media relations rep confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.
Lee was granted a temporary restraining order against Morgan, authorities told THR. The request for a permanent order is 43 pages long. A court date to decide that request is set for July 6.
The restraining order request was filed two days after Morgan was arrested on suspicion of filing a false report to police. Morgan was released from jail on $20,000 bail.
The LAPD is investigating reports of elder abuse against Lee. The investigation began in February, but only became public knowledge on Wednesday.
Former Lee attorney Tom Lallas is now acting as guardian ad litem for Lee.
Days before Morgan's arrest, a 45-second video was posted to Twitter in which Lee made it clear Morgan was the only person with whom he now worked and allowed to represent him. "My only partner and business manager is @KeyaMorgan, not all the other people making false claims," read the post accompanying the video.
In April, THR reported that the 95-year-old Lee — who co-created such legendary comic characters as Spider-Man, Black Panther, Iron Man, X-Men and the Fantastic Four, among many others — was caught in the middle of a war of words among those closest to him, all of whom were vying for control over Lee's life, allegedly for their own financial gain.
Morgan, who has long been involved in the pop culture memorabilia scene, was one of the subjects of the lengthy THR investigation. The other parties involved were Lee's 67-year-old daughter, J.C., publicist-turned-caretaker Jerry Olivarez, and Lee's former road manager Max Anderson. Lee's wife of 70 years, Joan, died last July.
A number of celebrities have publicly shared their concern over the creator’s well-being. Sources with knowledge of the situation have told THR that Lee's health has notably declined in recent months and his memory is in poor shape.
In February, Lee signed a declaration (THR obtained a copy) that claimed J.C. demanded money from him and insisted that men with "bad intentions" surrounded Lee and influenced the family to "gain control over my assets, property and money." These individuals included Morgan. The declaration was signed in Lallas' law office.
However, a video of Lee shortly thereafter posted to his Twitter account called the declaration "misleading" and "insulting," and the Marvel creator insisted "my relationship with my daughter has never been better."
A Milwaukee couple charged with unlawfully taking title to a mentally incompetent woman's house have won the house back in the state Court of Appeals — at least for now.
Before they were charged with crimes, Orlin and Craig Root-Thalman were involved in a probate court case about their 92-year-old neighbor. In the fall of 2016, social services workers had become suspicious the Root-Thalmans might be financially exploiting the woman, who had no children.
The county's Department of Aging petitioned for temporary guardianship, alleging she was suffering dementia. She had given the couple her home via a quitclaim deed and gave them powers of attorney for her finances and health care in July 2016.
The Root-Thalmans attended a hearing as interested parties.
Milwaukee Circuit Judge David Borowski seemed skeptical of the Root-Thalmans' explanations that they had moved the neighbor to a hotel while they renovated her home so she could move back in and that they were merely trying to consolidate her nearly $2 million in savings from more than a dozen area banks into one account.
When Orlin Root-Thalman tried to explain answers, Borowski cut him off, according to the Court of Appeals decision, and ultimately ordered him arrested for contempt of court for trying to interrupt Borowski.
Borowski granted the temporary guardianship and voided the July 2016 quitclaim deed conveying the woman's property to the Root-Thalmans. Months later, at the end of 2017, the Root-Thalmans were charged with crimes.
Those cases are pending, but the Court of Appeals late last month reversed Borowski's decision to void the property transfer because the Root-Thalmans were never given notice their property rights might be in jeopardy at the guardianship hearing and never had the chance to hire an attorney or prepare a defense.
"In addition, the circuit court repeatedly prevented Orlin from testifying in response to questions from the attorneys and from the court itself. Craig was not given any opportunity to testify," the court wrote.
The guardian Borowski appointed in 2016, lawyer Eamon Guerin, could still try to undo the transfer on behalf of the woman, in a separate action, the court wrote. He said he expects to pursue an action soon.
In the criminal complaint, prosecutors charged that the filing of the quitclaim deed was a felony: "The deed was false and a sham because J.H. lacked the mental competence to validly execute the deed. She could not, as the deed attests, 'acknowledge' the meaning and import of the deed. By filing this false and sham deed, the defendants committed the crime of Criminal Slander to Title."
Craig Root-Thalman is scheduled for a plea hearing in July.
Orlin Root-Thalman has been vigorously litigating his case. His attorney, Justin Singleton, argued that complaint should be dismissed because prosecutors withheld facts that tended to favor Orlin Root-Thalman and misstated others. He sought sanctions against the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley, as well.
A judge ruled against the defense. And Singleton withdrew his motion for sanction.
Benkley filed his own motion for sanctions against Singleton for bringing what the state calls frivolous motions. He sought a reimbursement to the state for more than $1,000 for the time Benkley said he spent responding to the defense motions.
A judge is scheduled to rule on that motion Friday.
Debbie Dahmer and I will host our third annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day show. The elderly are being abused, neglected and robbed all across the country. While there are multiple incidents of family and community members committing the abuse, by far the greatest threat to seniors today is the probate tribunal system where their lives are essentially brought to an end....but not before the predators help themselves to the estate.
Isolation, chemical restraint and abuse are common in these situations. While the government and MSM continually refuse to acknowledge who the real predators are, and, that these predators are interested in nothing more than availing themselves of the estate, our elderly languish and die while being isolated from family, friends and even religious associations. Chemical restraints are used to prevent the elderly from complaining or crying out.
This and more while our legislators both state and federal refuse to truthfully address the wholesale culling of the elderly at the hands of a corrupted probate system that operates outside of Constitutional restraints. The elderly, now viewed as a "waste population" are targeted for disposal. Families across the country are demanding a stop to this mercenary system of abuse, exploitation and theft that ends with the eventual misery laden death of an elderly person who committed no other crime than aging with assets.
We’re a generation of caregivers. According to the 2015 report Caregiving in the U.S., conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, more than 34 million Americans provide unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older.
The average age of caregivers is 49, and nearly one in ten is 75 or older.
While caregiving can be rewarding it’s also difficult. In fact, the Caregiving in the U.S. report also found that those almost one quarter of caregivers report declining health as a result of caregiving.
That’s why the National Institute on Agingstresses that “taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you can do as a caregiver.” Failing to pay attention to your own needs can lead to “caregiver burnout.” As the Cleveland Clinic explains on their website, that’s a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion and may include fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression.
The bottom line: if you want to continue to be an effective caregiver to someone you love it’s vital that you make yourself a priority, too. Here are some ways that may help prevent caregiver burnout:
Acknowledge that you’re a caregiver.“Your parents don’t have to be living with you or your spouse doesn’t need to be really ill for you to be a part of the caregiving world,” says Jennifer L. FitzPatrick, MSW, author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing the Stress of Caring for your Loved One. “Caregiving means somebody is depending on you for some kind of health or emotional need.”
Reach out to others.Jonathan March, owner of a caregiving service in Bradenton, Forida likes to remind the exhausted men and women he sees, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” Ask for help when you need it, whether that means having someone bring over a meal a couple of times a week, help with grocery shopping, or simply having an aid sit with your loved one for a few hours so you can take a break.
Safeguard your own health. Keep up with regular visits to the doctors, maintain an exercise program, eat healthy and don’t skimp on sleep.
Schedule “me” time. “When you’re a caregiver, it’s easy to put what refreshes you on the back burner,” FitzPatrick says. “That may be going for a hike, attending church or reading a book. A lot of caregivers report feeling guilty if they take time for themselves. But you’re going to have more energy and be able to be of more benefit to your loved one if you set some boundaries and don’t lose sight of who you are outside of your role as a caregiver.”
Become a member of a community. Whether it’s having a standing monthly dinner or museum date with friends who are also caregivers or joining a more formal support group, “sharing your feelings and experiences with others in the same situation,” reports the Cleveland Clinic, “can help you manage stress, locate helpful resources, and reduce feelings of frustration and isolation.”
Raleigh, N.C.— As state regulators investigate patient abuse allegations at a north Raleigh nursing home, the daughter of the patient involved said Tuesday that seeing how her father was treated was like a nightmare.
"I felt sick to my stomach, and I just started crying," Rebecca Knapton said. "That’s my dad, and I’m not there protecting him."
Knapton said she set up a hidden camera in her father's room at Universal Healthcare North Raleigh, at 5201 Clarks Fork Drive, after he insisted he was being mistreated by staffers.
"He wanted those girls to get caught being mean to him," she said. "I was hoping my dad was telling tales. I really was. I didn't want to believe that he was being abused."
Richard Johnson, 68, is recovering from a stroke, and video from the hidden camera shows that he fell out of his bed early one morning. He can be heard calling for help repeatedly, but no one stops by his room for more than an hour.
When staffers finally arrive to help him, they start criticizing him as well.
"What are you doing there?" asks a staff member. "What are you doing on the floor?"
Johnson said he had to go to the bathroom but had an accident while waiting. Staffers then change him on the floor, even though he repeatedly tells them he’s cold. "You were on the bed. You decided to go on the floor, so don’t complain that it’s cold," a staff member says.
The same staffer later faults him for his current circumstances.
"You had to do something very wrong with your life. What did you do? You’re suffering so bad, so you’ve done something wrong. Yes, you did."
Even after staffers finally put him back into the bed, the berating continues.
"How old are you? One? You’re supposed to be enjoying your retirement. Instead, look what you are doing, pooping on yourself. Shame on you," a staff member says.
Choice Health Management Services, the parent company of Universal Healthcare North Raleigh, said the staffers involved were fired, and others have received extra training.
"Anybody that treats someone in their care like this should not be labeled as a caregiver. They're not," Knapton said.
Choice Health officials said in a statement last week that they believe the incident with Johnson was isolated, and they are confident that residents are well cared for at the nursing home.
"We value and respect the rights of our residents, for we have no greater responsibility than the care and safety of those who are entrusted to us," officials said in a follow-up statement released Tuesday.
But records filed with the state Division of Health Service Regulation show a history of similar problems at the Raleigh nursing home. A report from last October, for example, notes staffers not answering residents' call buttons in a timely manner, residents being allowed to sit in urine or feces, inadequate staffing and a failure to respond to grievances filed by residents and their families.
After each inspection, the facility, which has two stars on the state's five-star scale, promised to fix the problems but clearly didn't.
"The continued failure of the facility during three consecutive federal surveys … shows a pattern of the facility's inability to sustain an effective Quality Assurance Program," regulators wrote last fall.
"I am now glad that it came out because it is getting people talking," Knapton said of her hidden-camera video. "[I'm] horrified because of the stories that are coming out from other people in the community and hearing that it is not just happening here but other places."
Johnson, a veteran and former Carolina Beach firefighter, "was enjoying his retirement to the fullest" before his stroke, his daughter said, noting he had taken cruises and loved to ride his motorcycle.
"It has caused emotional harm on my father," she said of the abuse.
But she added his response to the staffers who berated him inspired her.
"I like my dad's spunk when he says, 'Shame on you,'" she said. "My dad has some fight left, and I told him keep fighting - don't give up."
Jamie Beck works full-time at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, with benefits.
She lives in a Muncie apartment with a housemate, following and enforcing rules, cooking and cleaning.
Photo by Erskine Green Training Institute
Now, the 28-year-old has regained the legal right to make her own decisions.
Wayne County Superior Court II Judge Gregory Horn on Wednesday granted Beck's petition to terminate her guardianship by Achieva Resources Corporation and its president, Dan Stewart, and approved a Supported Decision Making agreement for Beck, who has a mild intellectual development disability.
"Yay. It feels pretty awesome," Beck said when asked how she felt after the hearing attended by about a dozen supporters for her historic moment. "To be able to make my own choices with help is really great."
Beck is the first Indiana resident to use a Supported Decision Making agreement and regain decision-making rights. About a year ago, Wayne County and Achieva were granted the state's first pilot program after the Indiana Supreme Court granted an American Bar Association request for a model Supported Decision Making program.
"Jamie, it's been an absolute pleasure to get to know you and to follow you," Horn said. "I'm glad that you're the first one, and I wish you all the success in the world."
Under the Supported Decision Making agreement, Beck, who will still receive Medicaid waiver services to make sure she is safe and thriving, selects a team to assist her and determines how they will advise her in area such as finances, healthcare, legal matters and housing, much like parents, family members and friends do for just about anyone making important life choices. In the end, though, the choices now are legally hers, which she said isn't the least bit scary.
"It's time," Beck said. "God takes you to this place."
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has obtained a $372,561 judgment on behalf of 54 Missouri consumers who were defrauded by former Perry County coroner Herbert Miller and his wife Kathleen.
Together, they operated the now-closed Miller Family Funeral Home in Perryville, Missouri.
Hawley's office announced the judgment Thursday in a news release.
Judge Michael Gardner issued issued a six-page default judgment in the Perry County Circuit Court case. The judge ordered the Millers and Miller Family Funeral Home to pay restitution of more than $238,000 to customers and to pay more than $134,000 in penalties, statuatory costs and fees.
Herbert Miller, Kathleen Miller and Miller Family Funeral Home are also permanently enjoined from the funeral services business and from accepting payments before providing goods or services to Missouri consumers.
The release said the Millers entered into contracts with consmers for pre-need funeral services and accepted upfront payments.
In 2016, the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors suspended Herbert Miller's license to act as a funeral director, according to Hawley's office.
The Millers filed for bankrpucy regarding their funeral home in February 2016.
"Despite being legally unable to provide funeral services, Herbert and Kathleen Miller failed to return consumer funds intended for funeral services and refused to provide consumers with the information needed to access their funds," the release said.
"The Attorney General's investigation revealed that Herbert and Kathleen Miller failed to deposit or retain consumer funds in trust accounts or joint accounts as required by their contracts with consumers. Instead, they diverted the consumers' funds for personal use and concealed their actions," the state agency said in the release.
Hawley said, "Herbert and Kathleen Miller preyed upon their elderly friends and neighbors in this close-knit community. My office will not stand by while scammers take advantage of the elderly."
In 2015, Herbert Miller was convicted of felony financial exploitation of the elderly and theft of $25,000 or more. The crimes occurred while Miller was coroner.
Judge Benjamin Lewis sentenced Miller in December 2015 to two prison terms, but suspended the sentence and placed him on five years probation. The judge also ordered Miller to make restitution of $80,600.
But last November, the judge revoked Miller's probabation and ordered him to serve two concurrent seven-year prison sentences.
The judge's decision came after the Attorney General's Office filed a misdemeanor charge against Miller in Apirl 2017.
Missouri assistant attorney general Gregory Goodwin told the court while Miller was on probation "he stole more money from other people." Goodwin said, "This is willful miscondcut."
Quinton Dalton, an investigator with the Attorney General's Office consumer protection division, said last year at least 40 complaints had been received about "deceptive business practicess" involving Miller. Miller's attorney, Jason Tilley, had urged the judge not to send his client to prison, arguing his client was continuing to make restitution in the 2015 case.
But Lewis said in putting Miller on probabtion in 2015 "it was not my intention" Miller resort to stealing to pay restitution.
Lewis said he spoke to the jurors after the jury trial. He said they wanted Miller to serve prison time for his crime.
A longtime Dallas attorney who has advertised “the highest level of integrity” was indicted after police said he stole $365,000 from a client.
The indictment came weeks after the FBI seized money from the lawyer in a separate case, according to forfeiture.gov, a government website that posts seizure notices.
Walter Thomas Finley, 70, is charged with felony theft in a case involving the trust fund of an East Texas woman.
He has not yet been arrested and did not return phone calls or text messages seeking comment.
The woman’s family gave Finley $416,000 in late 2012 to set up the fund and make quarterly payments to her, but he stopped after a year, according to a Highland Park police report and court records.
The woman, Deborah Edge of Talco, hired another lawyer and sued Finley in 2015.
Her lawsuit includes copies of emails in which she asked Finley about the missing payments.
“I apologize for the delay. Thank you for your patience,” Finley wrote back.
In another email, he indicated he had invested the money in a hedge fund.
“I am working with the hedge funds to get released as much as is possible under the terms of the hedge fund agreements,” he said.
Finley didn’t respond to the lawsuit or show up to court, and the woman was awarded $671,150 in damages and attorney fees, according to court records.
Her new attorney, Mark Heidenheimer of McKinney, said Finley has never paid the money.
Heidenheimer filed a criminal complaint in Highland Park because the documents were signed in that city.
The indictment was handed up May 25.
On April 2, the FBI seized $91,000 from Finley’s account at a Dallas bank, according to forfeiture.gov.
FBI spokeswoman Melinda Urbina in Dallas declined to give any details of the investigation.
But the records show that at the same time agents also seized money from an Addison company Finley formed called Greenview Investment Partners.
Greenview invested in the "legal marijuana" business, according to the Dallas Business Journal. The firm is no longer in business.
Finley filed a document last year with the Securities and Exchange Commission identifying himself as corporate secretary and indicating the company planned to raise between $5 million and $25 million from investors.
In the same case, the government seized a 2017 Bentley worth $205,000 and a 2018 Range Rover valued at $52,000 from two other people linked to Greenview.
LAW LICENSE SUSPENDED
The Texas Bar Association suspended Finley’s license for two months beginning in May 2017 for violating its rules of professional conduct. He also was put on probation until October 2018.
The bar’s website noted the suspension but gave no details.
But according to the Texas Bar Journal, which tracks lawyers’ discipline, Finley failed to give settlement funds to a client, did not answer the client’s questions, and failed to keep the money “separate from Finley’s own property.” He was ordered to pay $4,500 in restitution and $5,000 in attorneys’ fees.
In July 2017, in another case, Finley was paid $2,500 to represent a man in a tax matter but neglected to work on the case and keep his client informed, the bar said.
Just last month, Finley was issued a formal reprimand in that case, ordered to repay the client and pay an additional $2,000 in legal fees.
Finley is the only attorney in his office which is located on Turtle Creek Boulevard.
His website said he offers a wide range of legal services, including tax issues and estate planning.
“We aim to exceed your expectations,” it says. “Our balanced approach combines expert knowledge in crucial practice areas with the highest level of integrity.”
HISTORY OF FINANCIAL PROBLEMS
Separate from any criminal investigation, public records reviewed by NBC DFW show Finley has a history of financial problems.
In May 2010, the IRS filed a $448,197 lien on his Dallas home for tax years 2004 and 2005. He then defaulted on his mortgage and the bank foreclosed on the house, according to Dallas County court documents.
In February 2015, American Express Bank sued Finley over $45,244 in unpaid credit card bills. He was ordered to pay $1,200 a month.
“The defendant represents that due to his financial condition he is unable to make larger payments,” the receiver wrote in a court filing.
It was unclear from the court records if he ever repaid the debt.
In March 2016, Finley and his wife were evicted from another Dallas home, according to a court filing.
As we pay tribute to our Fathers today and thank them for all they've done for us and our families --- small and large --- remember they had a life before we were born. Many bravely faced the horrors of war at an age just months into adulthood. Others were forced to leave young families behind to answer the nation's call and returned home injured or didn't return at all. The sacrifices of our Fathers (or Grandfathers) can never be repaid, nor can the strength and resolve of their wives and widows to keep our country going while the wars waged on be forgotten.
The sacrifice given for freedom for future generations is the ultimate noble and generous act. Now as many of our Fathers and Grandfathers are aging and becoming frail. instead of being protected, they are subjected to unlawful and abusive guardianships and conservatorships and other forms of elder abuse, and that fact is unforgivable.
Please be proactive in raising awareness and spreading the word about elder abuse and guardianship abuse.
An 87-year-old woman was moved into a retirement home, her condo was sold, and her bank accounts were cleaned out after a Lighthouse Point couple took over her life, Pembroke Pines police said.
Christopher Scott Kydes, 57, and Lauren Cohen Kydes, 55, are accused of stealing nearly $136,000 from the woman.
They were arrested Thursday and are jailed without bond on charges of elderly exploitation and theft, records showed.
According to arrest reports filed in the case, Christopher Kydes befriended the woman, obtained power of attorney over her affairs, moved her into a Deerfield Beach assisted living facility, added his name to her bank account and to her will, and threw out all her belongings before his realtor wife Lauren Kydes sold the woman’s Century Village condo.
Investigators say the Kydeses pocketed an estimated $135,895.
The investigation started in May of last year when an out-of-state relative became concerned after losing contact with the woman.
The relative alerted authorities and when police did a welfare check they learned the woman had been moved to an assisted living facility. Detectives found her and unraveled what had happened, police said.
The yearlong investigation revealed Christopher Kydes became a trustee on the woman’s trust, became a joint account owner on the woman’s bank accounts, obtained a quit claim deed on the woman’s Century Village condo, became her healthcare surrogate, and was added to her will as a beneficiary.
A court-appointed guardian was assigned to the woman to stop the Kydeses from accessing any of her accounts, police said.
Bank records showed the woman’s retirement accounts were emptied and some of the woman’s funds were deposited into businesses owned by the Kydeses. Funds were then funneled between business accounts for their personal use, investigators said.
Police suspect there may be more victims and they are asking anyone who knows the couple or has information about any fraudulent activities to contact Pembroke Pines police at 954-431-2200. Anonymous tips can be sent to Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-8477 or online at browardcrimestoppers.org.
LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — Formal charges have been filed against Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, according to the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission.
Griffen is accused of violating the code of judicial conduct while handling the death penalty case last year.
The allegations say the judge participated in a death penalty protest after ruling the state Department of Correction could not administer an execution drug after a pharmaceutical company questioned whether it was obtained through the proper channels. The Arkansas Supreme Court later barred him from hearing death penalty cases.
Although Griffen had told the commission he was exercising his right to religious expression in the demonstration, the commission argues he had an obligation to dismiss himself in death penalty cases.
A special counsel from Mississippi brought the case in front of an investigation panel, which found probable cause to proceed.
It now will go before the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, which will hear the charges.
If the allegations are proven, it could result in "public discipline up to and including removal from office."
Attorney Mike Laux, who is representing Griffen, sent a response to the formal charges on Friday, saying:
Judge Griffen and his counsel can only shake their heads at today's JDDC announcement.
Special counsel in charge of the JDDC case against Judge Griffen told me nearly a month ago that the investigation was complete and charges against Judge Griffen would be approved. She asked if I would accept service on behalf of Judge Griffen, which I agreed to do. When I subsequently questioned counsel about major issues with her review, and the lack of effort I perceived attending to this review, she quickly became hostile and hung up on me, causing me to memorialize on May 16 our discussion via email to her. The attached emails reflect these email communications.
The JDDC, through special counsel, then proceeded to keep Judge Griffen and his counsel in a holding pattern for several weeks before dropping its late Friday afternoon bombshell press release today with no meaningful notice to Judge Griffen or his counsel. This is a deliberate and unfair sandbagging. It is a brazen show of utter disrespect to Judge Griffen.
One of the many tragedies of false claims of "slanted, fake investigations" and "witch hunts" currently emanating from the top is that such self-serving smoke screens trivialize the prevalence and significance of truly partial and vindictive investigations that plague too many majority/minority jurisdictions. Judge Griffen is one of those victims. We will have more to say on Monday.
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CONCORD — Eleven years after resigning as a Rockingham County Superior Court judge, after helping her disbarred lawyer-husband hide money from the state, Patricia Coffey is suing for an annual $89,604 pension, more than $400,000 in back-pension pay and health insurance.
Coffey resigned in 2008 after the Supreme Court suspended her for three years without pay, for helping her husband John Coffey create a trust to hide assets, while he was being disbarred for the financial exploitation of an elderly Rye woman. Coffey was also investigated for 2006 allegations that she fell asleep while presiding over Superior Court cases, was ordered to seek a confidential medical examination and be subject to random monitoring of her courtroom.
Now represented by Portsmouth attorney Russell Hillard, Coffey on Friday filed a four-count federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of New Hampshire contending the Board of Trustees of the New Hampshire Judicial Retirement Plan voted in 2015 to deny her pension application.
Her lawsuit reports she’s now 64, lives in California and was a superior court judge for 16½ years. During that time, Coffey claims in her suit, she made mandatory pension contributions and under terms of the plan, is entitled to a pension of 71 percent of her final year’s salary.
Coffey’s suit states her final year’s salary was $126,203, so she’s entitled to an annual pension of $89,604. She’s asking for a jury trial, a finding that the board violated law by denying her pension and that her pension be paid, with back pay. She’s seeking compensation for lost health benefits for the past four years, enrollment in the judicial health plan and reimbursement for legal costs and attorney’s fees.
The lawsuit states Coffey was denied the pension because the board found she was not employed as a judge at the time of her retirement age, while Coffey disputes that interpretation of applicable law. Coffey claims in her suit that she was vested in the retirement plan because she had the 15 years of minimum service when she reached age 60.
The suit was just filed Friday and the Board of Trustees for the New Hampshire Judicial Retirement Plan has 30 days to respond.
Six months after she resigned as a Superior Court judge, Coffey was again the subject of judicial reprimand. Then the N.H. Supreme Court’s Judicial Conduct Committee found she violated judicial code of conduct by drawing a salary from a private company, while also collecting full judicial pay, while suspended and under investigation for previous impropriety.
In a statement, the JCC announced Coffey violated three canons of the judicial code of conduct by collecting full-time pay for document retrieval services for a New York City firm at the same time she collected her judge’s pay. Coffey signed a document accepting the JCC’s findings and agreed she would be the subject of censure, a public reprimand, for the violations.