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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 for more information on how you can help stop guardian abuse.

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    Deeshawn Venegas
    A nursing home worker in Fairhaven has been accused of posting inappropriate videos of patients to a social media app.

    Deeshawn Venegas was in court Wednesday.

    Authorities claim that while Venegas was working at the Royal nursing home in Fairhaven, she posted videos of two patients to Snapchat in October.

    In court documents, Fairhaven police claim Venegas posted a video of a 69-year-old patient who was walking down the hall with no pants or underpants on.

    They also said Venegas posted a video of a female patient who had soiled herself, and there’s audio about having to clean it up.

    Police said there were captions on both videos, as well.

    Court documents show Venegas’ cousin alerted the nursing home to the videos a day after they were posted.

    The nursing home administrator called police the next day.

    Police have spoken to relatives of both patients.

    The administrator at the Royal nursing home told NBC 10 News Thursday he has no comment.

    Court documents show the administrator told police that he told Venegas and another worker who knew about the video but did not report it not to come to work until further notice, and that they would both be fired at the end of his investigation.

    Venegas is free on $500 bail.

    The judge ordered that she doesn’t not have contact with elderly people in a nursing home setting.

    Venegas’ lawyer said in court that she had been working at another nursing home in Marion.

    Full Article & Source:
    Only on 10: Nursing home worker accused of posting nude video of patient

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    William "Rodney" Jackson
    An Athens man accused of stealing more than $2,500 from four elderly people in 2013 has been formally charged with three counts of first-degree financial exploitation of an elderly person, records show.

    Based on an investigation by the Alabama Securities Commission and others, a Limestone County grand jury recently indicted William "Rodney" Jackson, 44, of 13580 Coldstream Way.

    According to the indictment, Jackson is accused of obtaining or exerting unauthorized control over United States currency in excess of $2,500 and with the intent of depriving the owner of the property. Jackson is charged on three counts of exploitation involving four people, including:

    • Count 1 involves one person and occurred May 13, 2013;
    • Count 2 involves two people and occurred May 2, 2013; and
    • Count 3 involves one person and occurred May 24, 2013.

    The names of the alleged victims were redacted in the indictment filed in Limestone County District Court.

    Jackson turned himself in to the Limestone County Sheriff's Office on Dec. 28, Dan Lord with the ASC told The News Courier Dec. 31. He was released after posting a $15,000 bond, records show.

    Details of the case against Jackson were limited Thursday. Lord said a press release on the arrest would be issued, possibly this week.

    Under Alabama law, a person can be charged with financial exploitation of an elderly person if he or she "intentionally and knowingly uses deception, intimidation, undue influence, force or threat of force to obtain or exert unauthorized control over the property of (a person) who is age 60 or older."

    First-degree financial exploitation of an elderly person is a Class B felony punishable upon conviction by two to 20 years in state prison.

    Full Article & Source: 
    Athens man charged with financial exploitation of elderly

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    The recommendation is a rebuke of Florida’s fledgling efforts to regulate professional guardians for incapacitated senior citizens

    In a rebuke of Florida’s fledgling efforts to regulate professional guardians for incapacitated senior citizens, an administrative judge recommended the state drop its first ever effort to revoke the registration of a professional guardian — Palm Beach County’s Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt.”

    Savitt is the wife of former Circuit Judge Martin Colin. Families and guardianship reform advocates have long pointed to the couple as an example of a guardianship system that aims to extract fees from the life savings of incapacitated seniors and disabled adults.

    Colin’s fellow judges — specifically family friend Circuit Judge David French who once oversaw the majority of her cases — were named in a report compiled by the Inspector General of the Palm Beach County’s Clerk & Comptroller’s Office finding “corruption and collusion of judges and lawyers in Delray Beach for financial gain.”

    But it appears — for now — that the state’s new guardianship office’s aim to end Savitt’s career as a guardian in Palm Beach County has resulted in a swing and a miss.

    Savitt “had no conflict between herself and Judge Colin because he did not appoint her or preside over her (professional guardian) cases,” wrote Administrative Law Judge Mary Li Creasy in a Dec. 21 recommendation to the Department of Elder Affairs.

    And while the appearance of the potential conflict should have been better disclosed, Creasy said Savitt did not benefit and no seniors in her care were harmed.

    Creasy, though, did find that Savitt violated guardianship statutes and abused her power by taking fees from the savings of her wards prior to court approval.

    But the judge said the newly created Office of Public and Professional Guardians had no jurisdiction under the state law it cited to punish Savitt for acting “clearly against the wards’ best interest.”

    “That is the exclusive purview of the circuit court which appointed (the professional guardian),” Creasy wrote in the decision filed. She said these judges ultimately approved these fees after Savitt had taken them improperly.

    Repeatedly in her 35-page recommendation, Creasy said the state guardianship office failed to prove its case by clear and convincing evidence. As a result, Creasy recommended the office drop its case against Savitt ‒ a blow for the state’s novice effort to discipline guardians.

    Savitt was quick to declare victory.

    “As the court found, there was no impropriety in the handling of guardianship cases involving now retired Judges Martin Colin and David French or any other judges,” Savitt said in an email.

    “There was insufficient evidence that I violated the guardianship statutes as charged and there was no evidence that any of my wards were harmed by me.”

    However, Creasy’s recommendation remains for now just that ‒ a recommendation. The guardianship office falls under the Department of Elder Affairs, which will ultimately decide Savitt’s fate.

    Ashley Chambers, spokeswoman for Elder Affairs, said the guardianship office does not agree with Creasy’s conclusions and will be submitting “exceptions” to the department, which has until March 21 to file its final order. Savitt will have a chance to challenge any final decision in an appellate court.

    “Our Office of Public and Professional Guardianship (OPPG) will always pursue appropriate disciplinary action when a complaint investigation finds that a guardian has violated their statutory responsibilities or has not acted in the best interest of the ward,” Chambers said.

    Robert Jarvis, a Nova Southeastern University law professor and expert on ethics, said that it’s clear Creasy thought the state guardianship office “did a terrible job presenting its case and was unwilling to cut it any slack.”

    He notes Creasy stated that Savitt’s actions of failing to disclose her marriage and taking retainers before court approval erode the public confidence in the guardianship system. But the administrative judge added that “they are not actionable as charged” by the guardianship office.

    “Savitt got very, very lucky,” Jarvis said. “Had the OPPG done a proper job of pleading, I have no doubt that Judge Creasy would have found that Savitt should be punished.”

    Dr. Sam Sugar, founder of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, said he sees the judiciary once again protecting its own.

    “If there were reason to question the integrity of the Florida judicial system this is Exhibit A,” Sugar said.

    “This is a moment of deep shame that only reinforces the notion that the black robe mafia has nothing to worry about and can continue to lord over us in any way their whimsy dictates.”

    The state guardianship office’s formed the basis of its administrative complaint from a detailed report compiled for it by Anthony Palmieri, the deputy inspector general of Palm Beach County’s Clerk & Comptroller’s Office.

    “If the experience and expertise of Anthony Palmieri and the OPPG is insufficient to create a legally sufficient and powerful complaint to rid Florida from just one egregious guardian, then the rest of us in this state have no hope whatsoever of ever getting a fair shake from the probate courts,” Sugar said.

    The clerk referred all questions to the state guardianship office.

    North Palm Beach probate and guardianship attorney Mitchell Kitroser said the majority of guardians and the judges that they appear before work incredibly hard with far too little support. And despite Creasy’s recommendation, he thinks the state guardianship office’s investigation of Savitt will prove a reminder that the public’s perception of, and confidence in the legal process, is of paramount importance.

    “One of the results of this investigation will be a greater sensitivity to the appearance that the public gets when a sitting judge and a close relative work in the same division of our legal system in the same county,” he said.

    “Avoiding even the appearance of impropriety would, I think, help provide the public with greater confidence in the impartiality of our judiciary which is essential to the proper functioning of our legal system.”

    Savitt’s work as a professional came to light in January 2016 in The Palm Beach Post’s investigative series, “Guardianship: A Broken Trust.”

    Some of the attorneys who represented Savitt and funneled her guardianships appeared in front of Colin, relying on him to approve large fee requests in probate cases.

    Following The Post’s report, Colin was transferred out of the probate division in February 2016 and retired at the end of that year. A criminal investigation into Colin was commenced by the State Attorney’s Office but resulted in no charges.

    Complaints from families about Savitt can be found in several of her guardianships. A majority of Savitt’s cases were in front of French, a friend of the couple, who routinely dismissed complaints from family members of wards about Savitt.

    In one guardianship case, Savitt tried to annul a ward’s marriage, which the spouse feared would cut her out from any inheritance. In two other cases, families accused Savitt of funneling money to relatives of the ward.

    Savitt also took more than $20,000 in what she called retainers from her ward’s savings prior to judicial approval ‒ the behavior Creasy cited as a violation of guardianship law.

    Then there was the time the former attorneys for 86-year-old Frances Berkowitz, a Savitt ward, claimed $400,000 was missing from the senior’s account. Their efforts to open up an inquiry were shut down by a circuit judge, who found the attorneys did not have standing.

    Savitt often points out she has never been removed from a guardianship by a judge and that no judge ever found any wrongdoing on her part.

    When families fought Savitt, they found themselves embroiled in extricated legal affairs ‒ all of which resulted in large legal fees that went to Savitt and her lawyers. All such fees in a guardianship are paid by the incapacitated ward, whose money was almost always under Savitt’s control.

    After The Post’s 2016 stories, then Palm Beach County Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath adopted guardianship reform in October 2016. He addressed many of the complaints about Savitt, prohibiting retainers and establishing a wheel to address any perceived favoritism toward certain guardians.

    Savitt, in her email, noted she hoped with Creasy’s recommendation, The Post and the Clerk’s Office will end “their unhealthy obsession with me and my family.”

    Full Article & Source:
    Judge deals Florida’s new guardianship office big setback in Elizabeth Savitt case

    See Also:

    EXCLUSIVE: Betsy Savitt guardianship report alleges ‘wrongdoing by sitting judges’ 

    Judge Martin Colin had a hand in his wife’s guardianship cases, state says

    Post investigation: Another blow to Judge ColinJudge in Post series moved from guardianship cases

    Chief judge keeps public waiting on details of guardianship shakeup

    Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Attorney: "Courts Have Allowed This Culture"

    Guardianships: A Broken Trust, 115 Recusals in Six Months

    Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Judges Socialized, Planned Trips Together

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    Click to Watch Video
    COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. — A troubled nursing home in Collierville is getting more complaints but is also seeing some changes with a new owner.

    Poplar Oaks Rehabilitation and Healthcare has been fined in the past after regulators found, among many things, the nursing home didn’t property report abuse allegations.

    Jo Ann Henderson said she doesn’t have fond memories of being in Poplar Oaks.

    “You feel like you’re in prison or something, I don’t know. It’s just not a good feeling," she said.

    Henderson said in her month-long stay last year, workers were rough with her and often ignored her.

    “You could call them and they wouldn’t come or nothing.”

    She and her daughter wanted to speak about the conditions after seeing WREG’s story on a different patient sent to the hospital with bad bruising.

    “And now she's all, it's infected and stuff and she can`t open it. So I'm like, it's like real bad," said Bernard, talking about her mother.

    They filed a police report for that case, saying the stories of what happened don’t add up.

    We’ve heard from several families alleging abuse and neglect to their loved ones at the one-star nursing home.

    Henderson’s daughter said she’d visit every day and was regularly upset by what she saw.

    “Mom laid in her urine for a whole night. Several times. I’d come in every day and she’d be laying in her urine," said Theresa Reed.

    She says workers would ignore her when she asked for fresh linens, so sometimes, she’d have to do it herself.

    “They never cleaned the room, but maybe once or twice mopped the floor. They never cleaned the bathroom.”

    Henderson was there for a month after she got a trach put in.

    She has COPD and congestive heart failure. She’d been in several facilities before, but this one shook her and her loved ones up.

    “She just said she was scared to say anything because of the way they treated her and we told her she didn’t have to worry about it, she wasn’t going to ever go back there.”

    Poplar Oaks changed ownership in October and is now named Collierville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

    The new owner is listed as ClearView Healthcare. The business license shows the principal office is in New Jersey.

    It’s the same address listed for the Midtown Center for Health and Rehabilitation’s principal office — another one-star nursing home in our area.

    The Midtown Center was fined more than $32,000 in 2016 after a state inspection found, among other things, workers not following pressure ulcer care plans. It caused patients’ conditions to worsen.

    Their state inspections have improved, but families hope to see much more progress, especially in Collierville.

    “I think they need to close it down and then start all over because it’s going to get worse. I feel like it is," said Jo Ann Henderson.

    We reached out to the state health department to see if any of these complaints are being looked into. A spokesperson said they can’t confirm nor deny pending investigations.

    We also reached out to the new owner for the Collierville nursing home and are working to find out what’s being done to improve conditions.

    Full Article & Source:
    Troubled Collierville nursing home gets new owner

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    WATERTOWN, MA – A Watertown woman faces multiple charges stemming from the alleged theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars from an elderly customer of her bank. Pamela Karalis, 44, who worked at a bank in Belmont, befriended the 90-year-old woman before convincing her to transfer the money to an account that Karalis controlled, according to the Middlesex District Attorney's office.

    Karalis faces four counts of embezzlement by a bank employee and obtaining a signature by false pretenses, larceny from a person over the age of 60, money laundering and tax evasion.

    Authorities say the woman was a regular customer at the bank and became friends with Karalis, who socialized with her outside of the bank and took her to doctor's appointments. On July 26, 2017, Karalis opened an "employee account" that was inaccessible to other employees of the bank and convinced the woman it would be easier for her to manage her money, according to the DA's office.

    Authorities say Karalis named herself the primary cardholder and used three checks the woman had signed to transfer $656,764 from her trust to the newly created account. The woman was not present when the checks were cashed.

    Karalis withdrew $210,448 for her personal use, according to the DA. Belmont police began investigating in April 2018 after a source alerted Springwell, an elder service agency, to alleged financial exploitation. Karalis told investigators the money was a gift from the woman, but they later learned she had not paid taxes for the transferred funds, according to the DA.

    "The defendant in this case is alleged to have gained the victim's trust through her position as a bank employee and as a friend, in an effort to divert hundreds of thousands of dollars from the victim's account for personal use," District Attorney Marian Ryan said in a statement. "Many times vulnerable populations, like senior citizens, are financially exploited by people they believe are operating with the best intentions. This case is a reminder that seniors should remain vigilant in monitoring their bank accounts and exercise caution when asked by others to transfer personal funds."

    Karalis was released on personal recognizance following her arraignment Monday and ordered to not work, volunteer or provide services for the elderly, not work or volunteer in financial institutions, not handle other individuals' financial information and to have no contact with the victim.

    Full Article & Source:
    Watertown Woman Befriended, Stole From Elderly Bank Customer: DA

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    Our first guest on Betrayed by Hospice Talk Show Radio – January 9, 2019 at 7:30 pm CST ...Lisa Ann

    Listen to Lisa Ann’s story about her Dad who was medically kidnapped and drugged with morphine, Ativan and Haldol at the young age of 67 in a Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Ohio. He was strapped to a wheel chair at the nurse’s station and when he tried to get up, the nurses would give him antipsychotics to “calm” him. Lisa has the medical records to show how her precious Dad was treated during the last weeks of his short life and how his death was hastened. They even tried to silence her story by arresting her days after her Dad passed on August 13, 2015.

    Call in and listen to what can happen to you or your loved ones if you blindly trust rogue hospice and nursing home staff. It is our intent to inform people about the potential dangers, terminology and red flags. Stealth Euthanasia is happening across the country as elderly and disabled are being targeted for early death and deemed unworthy of more time on earth. Many of the guests on this show have lost loved ones whose death was hastened by medical predators. Education is key for you to know what is happening and not just listen to what you are being told by medical staff. You have the right to question doctors and nurses decisions, refuse drugs and/or hospice altogether. There are other options available and it is our intention to give you knowledge about your rights.

    If you have a story about a hospice or nursing home hastening a loved one’s death, contact Marsha Joiner at to be a potential guest on the show. You will need to have records that document your story.

    LISTEN LIVE or listen to the archive later

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    Click to Watch Video
    The chief executive officer of Hacienda HealthCare resigned Monday, just days after a vegetative patient at a Hacienda nursing facility in Phoenix gave birth. Bill Timmons' resignation, which was unanimously accepted by Hacienda's board of directors, came as new allegations of past abuses emerged.

    CBS Phoenix affiliate KPHO-TV was first to report on the birth.

    Hacienda has been under intense scrutiny since the 29-year-old Native American woman had the healthy baby boy December 29, the station said. The patient has been in a vegetative state for 14 years, since a near-drowning incident, KPHO noted.

    In a statement, Hacienda said Board Executive Vice President Gary Orman vowed that Hacienda "will accept nothing less than a full accounting of this absolutely horrifying situation, an unprecedented case that has devastated everyone involved, from the victim and her family to Hacienda staff at every level of our organization."

    Orman said in the statement that Hacienda "will continue to cooperate with Phoenix Police and the investigating agencies at all levels in every way possible."

    The station said it's learned that she was raped several times.

    KPHO also spoke with a former Hacienda manager who said Timmons insisted that a 1988 incident of abuse of a different patient be covered up.

    The manager said female nurses were standing around a nonverbal male patient's bed, talking inappropriately about his genitalia. The ex-manager said when that was addressed at a subsequent manager's meeting, Timmons slammed his fist on a table and said, 'No! No one is going to report this,"' even though the law required that state health officials be notified.

    "I was scared," the ex-manager recalled. "Bill Timmons has a temper. And we knew not to mess with that temper because people got fired."

    She said no one reported that incident solely out of fear, and she believes there's been other abuse throughout the years.

    Parents of patients began coming forward, saying they had concerns about the facility's ability to keep their children safe.

    Meanwhile, a state lawmaker is considering legislation to protect patients living at long-term healthcare facilities from abuse.

    Rep. Jeff Weninger told KPHO one idea would be to allow families to install cameras in the rooms of their loved ones so they could be monitored remotely.

    Louisiana passed a bill last year forbidding healthcare facilities from rejecting requests for cameras.

    "You can hook these up through an Internet signal in nursing homes," Weninger said.

    Weninger said he was in the early stages of looking at the issue.

    Full Article & Source:
    Facility CEO resigns after woman in vegetative state gives birth; new allegations emerge

    See Also:
    Patient in vegetative state gives birth, sex abuse investigation underway: report

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    A smattering of the many elderly victims abused by April Parks finally had their day in court last week when a judge sentenced the former Nevada guardian to prison for manipulating the law to steal from her senior charges.

    Thus closes a particularly sordid chapter in Nevada legal history. But questions remain.

    The hearing came almost four years after a Review-Journal investigation — spurred by reporting in The Vegas Voice, a local monthly for seniors — revealed that a system intended to protect those who can no longer take care of themselves lacked oversight and was being exploited by predators.

    In an October 2017 essay for The New Yorker, Rachel Aviv expanded upon the RJ series by highlighting the case of Rudy and Rennie North. The husband and wife, married for 57 years, were rousted from their Sun City Aliante home over Labor Day weekend in 2013 when Parks and her crew arrived on the doorstep and announced the two would be moving to an assisted living facility per an order from Clark County Family Court. Unbeknownst to the Norths or their family, Parks had gotten herself declared the couple’s legal guardian without their consent, giving her virtual control over their lives, including their finances.

    A month later, most of the Norths’ belongings, including family heirlooms, were sold or disposed of and the couple had been made permanent wards of the state while confined to a glorified nursing home. The Norths were never represented by counsel.

    It was frighteningly Orwellian but all legal — even though the Norths’ daughter, who lived in Las Vegas, vehemently tried to contest what was happening.

    Parks was Nevada’s most active private guardian, at one time managing up to 100 cases. But while Parks’ abuses were indeed “absolutely shocking” and “downright offensive,” as the sentencing judge noted Friday, she operated with the tacit approval of all involved — from the police and social workers who turned a blind eye, to the medical professionals who provided diagnostic cover for her court filings, to members of the judiciary who rubber-stamped her every move.

    April Parks is going to prison. Good. But many in positions of power, though they committed no crimes, failed miserably to protect the victims yet remain entrenched in the system. For example, Jon Norheim, the Clark County guardianship commissioner for a decade, was transferred to another position in 2015 and now oversees cases involving neglected children. District Judge Charles Hoskin, who handled appeals in guardianship court, was also reassigned three years ago and has applied for a vacancy on the Nevada Court of Appeals.

    The guardianship controversy resulted in many positive reforms implemented upon the recommendation of a Nevada Supreme Court panel. But a stench still fouls the air.

    Full Article & Source:
    EDITORIAL: Victims of guardianship travesty finally receive justice

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    John W. Butts
    NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) - A former Connecticut attorney and probate judge is not contesting his role in the embezzlement of $277,000 in assets from a probate client.

    John Butts, of Salem, pleaded no contest Friday to a first-degree larceny charge at court in New London.

    The Day reports that he faces up to two years in prison when he is sentenced in March.

    Butts accepted a plea offer involving 10 years in prison, suspended after up to two years served, followed by five years of probation.

    His attorney says the 66-year-old Butts had surrendered his law license and has repaid some of the money.

    Investigators say he deposited money from his client fund account into his personal account.

    He was a probate judge from 2003 to 2011.

    Full Article & Source:
    Former judge pleads no contest in embezzlement case

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    A new law in Ohio is designed in part to protect people with guardians.

    House Bill 595, sponsored by state Reps. Robert Cupp and Jeff Rezabek and signed into law Dec. 21 by outgoing Gov. John Kasich, among other things allows county probate courts to establish adult guardianship services boards and funds to provide for the oversight of services and care for those under guardianship.

    It unanimously passed in the Ohio House and Senate.

    “Cutting red tape for county courts to work together to provide services to individuals under guardianship could save time, money for the individual, their families/caregivers, and the state,” AARP State Director Barbara A. Sykes said in a statement. “Additionally, when state courts work together on such cases, they could not only be more efficient and effective, but they could also potentially detect signs of abuse and exploitation earlier in the legal process.”

    Full Article & Source:
    Ohio has new guardianship law

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    The chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe in southeastern Arizona says he is horrified and wants justice served for the incapacitated tribal member who became pregnant while a resident at a Phoenix nursing facility.

    The tribe says the patient is a 29-year-old woman. She gave birth to a baby boy while still in the Hacienda HealthCare facility on Dec. 29.

    "On behalf of the tribe, I am deeply shocked and horrified at the treatment of one of our members," San Carlos Apache Chairman Terry Rambler said in a statement. 

    "When you have a loved one committed to palliative care, when they are most vulnerable and dependent on others, you trust their caretakers. Sadly, one of her caretakers was not to be trusted and took advantage of her. It is my hope that justice will be served."

    Officials with the San Carlos Apache Police Department say they will assist the Phoenix Police Department in any way possible to find the perpetrator.

    Phoenix police first became aware of the situation when they responded to a report of an infant who had coded at Hacienda de Los Angeles, 1402 E. South Mountain Ave.  at 3:42 p.m. on Dec. 29.

    When officers arrived, they found an incapacitated woman who had delivered a baby. Both were then transported to a local hospital, a police report says. A sexual assault investigation is ongoing, police say.

    The woman's family released a statement through Phoenix lawyer John Micheaels this week, saying the baby boy was born into a loving family and will be well cared for.

    In its statement, the family said they are "outraged, traumatized and in shock" and not emotionally ready to make a public statement.

    Phoenix police on Tuesday served a search warrant on the facility to get DNA samples of male employees.

    Authorities say the woman who gave birth had been a resident at the facility for many years., the CBS affiliate that broke the story, has reported that the woman has been in the facility since a near-drowning more than 10 years ago.

    William Timmons, a longtime top executive with Hacienda HealthCare, resigned Monday.

    Detectives are appealing to the community for assistance in identifying the perpetrator. Anyone with information can contact the department's violent crimes bureau at 602-262-6141. To remain anonymous, contact Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS (480-948-6377) or 480-TESTIGO (480-837-8446) for Spanish.

    Full Article & Source:
    San Carlos Apache leader 'horrified' by incapacitated tribal member's pregnancy at facility

    See Also:
    Facility CEO resigns after woman in vegetative state gives birth; new allegations emerge

    Patient in vegetative state gives birth, sex abuse investigation underway: report

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    A shadowy figure holds a woman and her money
    The guardianship system is meant to protect vulnerable citizens. But the secretive and legal process is not always transparent to the people it is meant to protect.
    Catherine Galvin sat in the audience of an elder abuse panel discussion in Richland, Wash., listening to a Q and A about nursing home abuse, predatory behavior and living wills. The panel of professionals answered diligently and offered many resources for the audience.

    None of them could help Catherine free her friend from guardianship.

    Bonnie ‘Jeanne’ Southall and Catherine Galvin met in 2000 when Catherine, a psychiatric nurse at the Walla Walla Veterans Affairs Hospital, treated Jeanne’s husband, Sam. After Sam’s death Jeanne sought a friendship with Catherine. But at first Catherine was hesitant.

    “I was really concerned because even though I was never her therapist I didn’t want the appearance of you know somebody in an unequal situation you know when you’re friends you start from the same basis,” Catherine said.

    But when Jeanne heard Catherine needed a place to live she offered to take her in.

    “I said I have a big home and a lovely big backyard that’s fenced and you can come to live with me,” Jeanne recalled. “It took her a long time to decide, and (she) came for many interviews. But I guess she decided it was safe living with me.”

    Two senior friends at lunch.
    Catherine Galvin, left, and Jeanne Southall at lunch together. It would be one of their last visits face to face.

    Jeanne Southall is 99. Their age difference was as long as their friendship of nearly 20 years. They had a lot in common, from the places they traveled to the love of good food and doting on their pets.

    Was Dementia Diagnosis ‘Reversible’?

    Eventually, Jeanne decided to sell her home and move to a senior living facility called Park Plaza, an all-inclusive independent senior living community. Catherine moved just a few blocks away and continued to care for her friend. Losing her eyesight, Jeanne made Catherine her power of attorney to help pay bills and accompanied her to appointments. Shopping, too. Jeanne has a penchant for fashion.

    One night in October 2016, Jeanne was taken to the emergency room. Soon after Jeanne moved temporarily to a rehabilitation center.

    After recovery, Catherine moved Jeanne back to Park Plaza. But she noticed her friend was acting differently. Jeanne seemed paranoid, anxious and agitated. Catherine made an appointment to see Jeanne’s doctor, Jon Gardner at Providence St. Mary Medical Center. Dr. Gardner diagnosed dementia. Jeanne was 98. But to Catherine, something wasn’t right. The dementia had come on too quickly — speeding through years of dementia onset in a matter of two months. She pored over Jeanne’s medical records and found in the paperwork, “Discontinued medications: Levothyroxine.”

    Catherine was elated.

    Levothyroxine is a thyroid medication. When a patient is suddenly taken off it, especially a patient who has taken it for years, withdrawal symptoms include agitation, forgetfulness and anxiety. Catherine felt Jeanne’s dementia was reversible. She called Dr. Gardner’s office to inform them.

    By the time Jeanne felt herself again, a secret and legal process was filed with the Superior Court of Walla Walla: guardianship.

    When you think of the word guardian it may elicit feelings of comfort and care. To Jeanne it brought heartache, financial ambiguity and loss.

    Two Types Of Guardians

    There are two types of guardians: lay and certified professional. Lay guardians can be family members, friends or a community member. They take an online course and pass criminal background checks before a court will assign them. Lay guardians can care for up to two wards, and the courts oversee them. According to Stacy Johnson at the Office of Guardianship and Elder Service, the state only has an estimate on the number of guardians.

    “So, that’s a moving target. I can give you an estimate,” Johnson said. “There’s about 20,000 people under guardian with a lay guardian and about 3,500 with a professional guardian in the state of Washington.”

    Losing Civil Rights Under Guardianship

    Professional guardians have taken lengthy courses and are certified by the state. Usually they are lawyers. Certified professional guardians can take on as many clients as they want. Both types of guardians have legal authority to make medical and financial decisions.

    There are different levels of guardianship. A guardian can oversee estates but not a person’s daily needs, or full guardianship overseeing the entire estate and person. In Washington, alternatives to full guardianship should be pursued first because of the significant loss of civil rights once you’re a ward.

    That doesn’t always happen. Full guardianship, as in the case of Jeanne, are often the norm despite a person’s capacity to make decisions. Alternatives to full guardianship, such as durable power of attorney, a health care power of attorney or case management, should be considered before full guardianship.

    The rights you lose under guardianship: The right to hire a lawyer, make medical decisions, to buy or sell property, to manage your finances, to marry, who you associate with, and to vote.

    Document listing rights lost when under guardianship.
    The guardian ad litem interviews the alleged incapacitated person. In this case, Jeanne says she was not told about the loss of her rights or the option to an attorney. David S. Grossman was appointed by the court as her guardian ad litem. Court documents state he informed her and she declined representation. Link to image document:
    It is costly because the incapacitated person’s estate pays for everything from court, lawyer and guardian fees.

    When Jeanne was off her thyroid medication, she was incapacitated, meaning she couldn’t make decisions on her own. In legalese, incapacitated has a lower threshold of proof than incompetent. But she had a power of attorney in Catherine who could care for her, and she demonstrated a willingness to do so while Jeanne recovered.

    But during this time a social worker, Larry Forseburg, filed a guardianship petition on behalf of Providence St. Mary Medical in Walla Walla stating Jeanne was unable to care for herself, feed, dress and make decisions. He’s also married to the occupational therapist Jeanne was seeing, Sue Foresburg. Yet, while Larry’s petition for guardianship says Jeanne couldn’t care for herself, Sue Foresburg encouraged Jeanne to stay at an independent living facility.

    Jeanne had the assistance of another caretaker, Maria Ornelas. Both say they witnessed Catherine and Jeanne arguing to the point that Jeanne would be upset.

    Catherine wanted Jeanne to move out of Park Plaza and into a 24-hour care facility, based on recommendations by Dr. Gardner that Jeanne could have a stroke. Jeanne did not want to move. Sue Foresburg and Maria Ornelas told her she didn’t have to if she didn’t want to.

    “I had absolutely no say so about this at all. Nobody even asked me or told me about it I had no idea what it was about and I did not know I had to pay for it like I do.” Jeanne Southall

    Jeanne had made friends at Park Plaza, and being seeing-impaired, she was familiar with the layout of the facility. But Catherine insisted and took Jeanne to visit other facilities. Jeanne eventually put down a deposit at Wheatland Village, but soon backed out. This caused tension between the long-time friends.

    In court declarations,Sue Foresburg says Jeanne confided in her that Catherine was treating her badly. According to Sue Foresburg, Jeanne asked her to contact her lawyer so she could remove Catherine as her power of attorney.

    Barbara Bates, a Clinical Social Worker employed by Providence St. Mary Medical Center, visited Jeanne in March 2017 after guardianship was initiated and reported that Jeanne did not want Catherine as her power of attorney anymore and did not want to move from Park Plaza. Bates also stated that Jeanne wanted her to contact Dr. Gardner and let him know of the situation with Catherine.

    The hired caretakers and social workers wrote to the court stating Jeanne was a vulnerable adult and needed protection from Catherine. There were complaints about Catherine to Washington state’s Adult Protective Services that were later dismissed. Despite that, the court issued a vulnerable protection order against Catherine, preventing her from seeing Jeanne.

    Catherine admits conversations with Jeanne about moving would get intense, but never abusive. 

    Jeanne says the same.

    Jeanne: “That is not the truth. She never… She might have yelled at me. But are you married?

    Reporter: “Yes ma’am.”

    Jeanne: “Have you ever yelled at your husband?”

    Reporter: “Weekly.”

    Jeanne: “I don’t think that is really a bad thing to do sometimes they need it, we’re all human, and what’s the name of the song, Forgive Me, Please Forgive Me, I Didn’t Mean to Make You Cry.”

    Catherine says she was trying to follow Dr. Gardner’s advice to move Jeanne to a 24-hour care facility.

    Because I think Providence St. Mary Medical Center is covering up the medical error,” Catherine said. “And they don’t want her to have any standing to bring a suit, and they don’t want me to have any standing to bring a suit.”

    Catherine filed a complaint with the Washington Medical Commission against Dr. Gardner. The Commission cleared him.

    We were unable to reach Dr. Gardner for this story, but Providence St. Mary Medical Center’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Kathleen Obenland, responded, saying the hospital does initiate guardianship on three or fewer patients a year, often done for patients nearing the end of their lives. Normally, Providence St. Mary Medical Center receives requests from the patient themselves, or family members to initiate guardianship.

    “I can’t hear what he’s saying.” – Jeanne Southall during her guardianship hearing.

    The Superior Court of Walla Walla assigned David Grossman as guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem is tasked with investigating whether a person needs guardianship, and at what level. They make recommendations to the court based on interviews. The GAL is supposed to tell potential wards what guardianship entails –that depending on the level of guardianship you lose many civil rights. They’re supposed to ask if the ward wants a lawyer.

    Jeanne says no one told her she would lose the right to buy or sell property, marry, hire a lawyer, or vote. She was particularly incensed about voting.

    I had absolutely no say so about this at all,” Jeanne said. “Nobody even asked me or told me about it. I had no idea what it was about, and I did not know I had to pay for it like I do.”

    David Grossman filed to speed up the guardianship hearing because a restraining order against Catherine was about to expire. It did, and Catherine and Jeanne saw each other before the guardianship hearing on August 7, 2017.

    Read the transcript of Jeanne Southall’s guardianship hearing 8-7-17

    According to court transcripts, Jeanne told Judge Scott Wolfram she wanted a lawyer and had trouble hearing what was being said. Judge Wolfram was under the impression that Larry Siegel, Jeanne’s long-time personal attorney, was representing her. He was not. Siegel was there to have Jeanne sign for a different power of attorney to avoid guardianship. Jeanne did not sign. Siegel stated that if Jeanne was contesting the guardianship, he was not an appropriate person to represent her.

    Judge Wolfram acknowledged Jeanne could not hear, but accommodations for her were not provided. Thomas Coleman, Legal Director of Spectrum Institute, believes this violates theAmericans with Disabilities Act. He wrote to the Washington State Supreme Court on Jeanne’s behalf.

    After approving full guardianship, the judge told Jeanne she could hire a lawyer. She could not since she lost that right once the judged signed over guardianship to Omniguardianship,a private company offering guardianship services in central and eastern Washington.

    Catherine decided to fight to get Jeanne out of guardianship.

    Standing Up

    This isn’t the first time Catherine Galvin stood up for those who can’t do it themselves. She blew the whistle on abuse of power and intimidation at the Walla Walla Veterans Affairs Hospital where she was a psychiatric nurse. That had financial and career implications for her. But in 2014 the former administrator at the Walla Walla VA, Sharon Helman, was fired from her upper-level position at the Phoenix VA Health Care System for disguising long wait times for veterans.

    That early bout shows Catherine’s personality. She is unafraid to take on a system that she says is holding her friend in near prison.

    A Birthday Visit And Charged Her Estate

    Once in guardianship, Jeanne’s estate was charged for the guardian ad litem’s fee, the guardian ad litem’s attorneys fees, and Omniguardianship’s fees. That included their attorney’s services, costing Jeanne $17,516.

    Guardians, both professional and lay, are paid. The amount? It’s vague. The courts approve of fees based on what they deem fair and reasonable.

    Perhaps the headache of dealing with Catherine’s insistence on seeing Jeanne led Omniguardianship to resign as her guardian. We don’t know for sure because the company did not respond to a request for interview.

    Financial statements show Omniguardianship charged Jeanne’s estate between $90 – $115 an hour for running errands, talking with Jeanne, answering Catherine’s phone calls, and paying Jeanne’s bills.

    Some services were discounted, however, including a visit to Jeanne on her birthday that included a cupcake. A 90-minute visit originally charging $117 discounted to $58.50.

    Jeanne, who is blind, says she was never read receipts since being in guardianship.

    State law says wards are to be updated on their finances, and guardians are to file periodic financial statements with the court. But Jeanne says she has no idea how much money she has left.

    There is this guardian thing where I don’t know what they do. They’re lovely people. I haven’t had anybody help me who hasn’t been a lovely person,” Jeanne said. “I don’t want to talk about anyone or what they do, because they’re doing their job and they’re needing work and they’re needing a job, and I’m not going to run them down. But I don’t need a full-time guardian, and this is taking the money that (my husband) Sam and I saved for our old age, and we didn’t have a lot of money.”

    Documents Sealed

    After Omniguardianship resigned, Debbie Conklin of Cornerstone Professional Services took over. Jeanne says she does not know how much Conklin charges an hour. Most of Jeanne’s court documents while under Conklin’s guardianship have been sealed. Guardians generally say it is to protect the privacy of their wards. Critics of guardianship say documents are sealed inappropriately.
    In smaller jurisdictions where resources and manpower are limited, clerks do not often have the time to unseal inappropriately sealed documents.

    Catherine and Jeanne were allowed by the court to have supervised visits. But those visits depended on Conklin’s schedule. Lunches were cancelled. Weekly supervised phone calls rarely happened, according to Catherine.

    Conklin did not want to be interviewed for this story, but did provide a statement saying in part:
    “The actions of Catherine Galvin caused this guardianship, a vulnerable adult protection order against Ms. Galvin, supervised visits and ongoing legal action. My careful review of the Court file found no evidence of fraud. The prior guardian engaged in mediation with Ms. Galvin and Ms. Southall which resulted in an agreement to keep the guardianship in place and an evaluation done on Ms. Southall in November 2017. While I cannot disclose medical information, I believe this guardianship is necessary.The drama and expense are unfortunately perpetuated by Catherine Galvin causing unwarranted expense and heartache for Ms. Southall who wholeheartedly deserves peace, joy and privacy.”
    Conklin’s lawyer filed and was granted a permanent restraining order against Catherine in October 2018 preventing her from seeing Jeanne.

    The long-time friends are no longer allowed to speak to each other.

    Getting Out Of Guardianship

    You may be wondering a few things. Does Jeanne have other family? Yes. But Jeanne and Catherine asked that the family be left out of this story. You may also wonder how someone gets out of guardianship.

    Spokane elder law attorney Cheryl Mitchell literally wrote the book on Washington elder law and practice. She says it is nearly impossible to get out of guardianship.

    “When I was in law school one of my professors was talking about living trusts. Living trusts are like lobster traps, easy to get into, difficult to live in and nearly impossible to get out of. I feel guardianships are the same way,” Mitchell said. “You find yourself in a guardianship, and getting out is very difficult. And then the problem is, even if a person wanted to get out of the guardianship, finding an attorney to represent that person is very difficult because the guardian controls the money.”

    Not Giving Up

    Despite the slim odds, Catherine is not giving up on Jeanne.

    “I want her out of the guardianship, and I want to see about getting her an attorney that will get her out of the guardianship,” Catherine said. “And we can get her maybe into a medical malpractice thing to protect her, because they have taken every cent that she has. She has no rights, she doesn’t exist as a person.”

    And Jeanne hasn’t forgotten her friend.

    “She already knows. I love her,” Jeanne said of Catherine. “I love her like my daughter. And they might take me out of Catherine’s life, but they cannot take Catherine out of my life.”

    UPDATE/CLARIFICATION, Jan. 10, 2019:

    In the audio of this story, and in a previous web version, several things were misstated that have been corrected in the text above.

    First, Jeanne Southall was taken to the emergency room in October 2016, but not for a fall that hurt her ribs. The falling incident took place earlier in 2016. A section discussing her time in the hospital has been shortened so as to not confuse this.

    Second, a paragraph describing when social worker Larry Forseburg filed a guardianship petition has been clarified for timeline to show it was not after Jean Southall’s earlier fall.

    Third, a section talking about discounted services and a “$45 cupcake” has been clarified to include the full amount Jean Southall’s estate was charged for a 90-minute visit on her birthday. The full visit was discounted from $117 to $58.50, instead of just the cupcake itself being discounted from $90 to $45.

    Full Article & Source:
    How A Washington Elder Fell Into Guardianship, And How It Can Happen To You

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    Financial services firms are in the business of caring for customers — resolving issues, addressing multiple needs and providing a high-touch experience. But some of that care and concern should be directed to our own employees, many of whom currently serve, or will serve in the future as the caregiver of a senior family member.

    With more than 40 million caregivers across America, many employees in effect have a second job — a role that can take a physical, financial and mental toll.

    Responsibilities can vary, but the average caregiver spends more than 10 hours per week offering support, doing such things as helping with grocery shopping, driving to appointments, and engaging with other service providers. Less than half of current caregivers receive any form of financial assistance for that support, yet the average caregiver spends more than $7,000 per year helping the elder in their care, according to the Safeguarding Our Seniors study from Allianz Life.

    One key issue facing both seniors and their caregivers (and one very relevant to our industry), is elder financial abuse. Financial abuse can severely reduce a senior's hard-earned savings, but the damage doesn't stop there.

    According to the Allianz study, nearly 90% of both active and potential caregivers said they experienced a financial impact when their elder was financially abused, with the average cost to those caregivers reaching a staggering $36,000.

    In addition, those who are providing care for past victims of financial fraud are spending significantly more than those caring for elders with no history of financial abuse, which in turn negatively affects the caregivers' ability to save for their own needs.

    Under the recently enacted Senior Safe Act, all financial services firms are required to provide training to employees to help them spot signs of elder financial exploitation, and firms are empowered to notify the proper agencies and local units of government if they believe a client may be the target of financial exploitation — without fear of negative repercussions. That is an important step forward, but in addition to watching out for their customers, financial services firms should also make protecting their employee caregivers from financial abuse a top priority.

    Here are a few ways that financial services organizations can help employee caregivers:

    • Educate employee caregivers on the red flags to help them spot potential financial abuse in their own families. While the signs may be different for financial professionals, family caregivers are likely to be much more in tune with their elder's finances and should be aware of any warning signs. This may include changes in financial activity such as inconsistent transactions, opening new debit or credit cards, adding new account holders or changing a power of attorney.

    • Keep employees up to speed on trending methods of exploitation, including phishing and internet scams, phone calls from people pretending to be family members needing help, home repair fraud, messages from someone pretending to be from the IRS, and fake lottery and sweepstakes winnings. This training could be offered more often than the annual or biannual training that should already be in place to comply with the Senior Safe Act.

    • Encourage employees to talk about the issue with the person they care for. Elder financial abuse can be a sensitive topic, but starting a dialogue and sharing examples of potential fraud are the first steps in raising awareness.

    • Offer access to care management programs, which are often available through health insurance providers. These programs provide resources for caregivers, such as connecting them with relevant local agencies, and can help if someone suspects their family member is undergoing or being targeted for financial abuse.

    Beyond elder financial abuse, firms should consider adding extra benefits and support programs for caregivers, such as paid caregiver leave or flexible work schedules to help accommodate their needs.

    The financial services industry is already on the front lines of addressing elder financial abuse among customers, but the caregivers within our own walls may be facing these same challenges.

    In our industry, best practices in protecting consumers should start at home. Financial services firms have an important opportunity to help their own employee caregivers protect and support the elder members of their families and in the process help reduce elder financial abuse among the growing population of older adults.

    Full Article & Source:
    How financial services firms can help employee caregivers

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    Glenn Martin Mirando
    A disbarred Tulsa attorney was sentenced Wednesday to nearly three years in prison after admitting to bank fraud tied to the theft of nearly $600,000 from a client for whom he was a court-appointed guardian.

    U.S. District Judge John Dowdell handed Glenn Martin Mirando a prison term of two years and nine months, saying his crimes warranted a “substantial sentence of imprisonment.”

    Dowdell also ordered Mirando to make restitution totaling $589,393 and serve five years of post-custody supervision under the U.S. Probation Office.

    Federal prosecutors had filed a two-count complaint in June alleging that the 64-year-old stole the $589,393 through unauthorized cash withdrawals from his client between 2013 and 2016. Mirando pleaded guilty Sept. 4.

    The theft occurred after a state court judge appointed Mirando as the guardian for the 66-year-old woman and her estate in 2012.

    As guardian, Mirando controlled the woman’s financial accounts, including an Individual Retirement Account with funds totaling nearly $1.3 million, plus checking accounts, court records indicate. The woman was incapacitated at the time, according to federal prosecutors.

    Mirando used the stolen funds to support his lifestyle and that of his family members, prosecutors said.

    “Mirando chose to violate and abuse both his position of trust as a formerly licensed attorney and his position of trust as a court appointed guardian for the victim of this horrible fraud,” U.S. Attorney Trent Shores said in a statement.

    “Embezzling almost $600,000 from a vulnerable individual who was receiving medical treatment in order to maintain an extravagant personal lifestyle for himself and his family is inexcusable,” Shores said.

    “Even more egregious, Mirando used his skills as an attorney to conceal the theft for three years by laundering the proceeds of the bank fraud scheme through the movement of cash between multiple bank accounts,” the prosecutor continued.

    Mirando made 306 cash withdrawals from the woman’s financial accounts, depositing the money into his personal account, his business account and his wife’s personal account, and used the money to pay personal expenses, according to a court filing by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles McLoughlin said during the sentencing hearing in Tulsa federal court that Mirando’s actions were “incredibly premeditated.”

    Mirando “step-by-step looted” the woman’s inheritance, he said.

    A presentencing report by the U.S. Probation Office found that Mirando should receive a prison term between 41 and 51 months under federal sentencing guidelines.

    However, papers filed on Mirando’s behalf asked the judge to take into account his age, “long-ago addiction issues” and past history of cancer when deciding a sentence.

    The U.S. Attorney’s Office asked that Mirando be sentenced within the guideline range.

    “Mirando does not need a ‘0’ month sentence with supervised release, instead he requires the strong sanction of a sentence of incarceration with the Federal Bureau of Prisons within the sentencing guideline range of 41-51 months,” a prosecutor wrote.

    Dowdell, citing Mirando’s health problems, agreed to the shorter 33-month prison term.

    Mirando apologized to the judge and victim for his actions.

    “I take full responsibility,” he said. “Those were my actions. My actions were horrendous.”

    Mirando previously had colon cancer, which has been adequately treated, according to the court filing on his behalf.

    A doctor has recommended that Mirando be subject to ongoing monitoring to ensure that “the life threatening cancer does not return or get worse,” the court filing states.

    “Counsel has no reason to believe that the Bureau of Prisons is in any way capable of performing these medical tests, even if they had any interest in doing so,” Mirando’s attorney, Allen Smallwood, wrote.

    However, regarding Mirando’s concerns that he would not be monitored for a recurrence of cancer, McLoughlin wrote that the defendant had provided no evidence that the Bureau of Prisons was incapable of meeting his medical needs.

    Mirando, who has been free on bond since the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed the two-count felony information, was ordered to report to prison by May 23. Dowdell indicated that he would recommend that federal Bureau of Prisons officials assign Mirando to a facility with a hospital, either in Springfield, Missouri, or in Fort Worth, Texas.

    Mirando also faces state charges in Tulsa County District Court stemming from the same conduct. McLoughlin said it was his understanding that those charges might be dismissed depending on the outcome of the federal case.

    Mirando was disbarred in 2016, McLoughlin said.

    Full Article & Source:
    Disbarred Tulsa attorney sentenced to prison after admitting to stealing nearly $600,000 from a client

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    Department of Justice
    U.S. Attorney’s Office
    Northern District of Oklahoma

    Wednesday, January 9, 2019

    Disbarred Tulsa Guardian Attorney Sentenced to Prison for Nearly $600,000 Fraud

    A disbarred Tulsa guardianship attorney has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction for bank fraud and money laundering in a scheme that defrauded his client of $589,393, announced U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. Glenn Martin Mirando, 64 of Tulsa, Oklahoma, pleaded guilty September 4, 2018.

    Today, U.S. District Judge John E. Dowdell sentenced Mirando to 33 months in prison, for both bank fraud and money laundering, to be followed by five and three years of supervised release.

    The court also ordered a criminal forfeiture money judgment in the sum of $589,393, representing proceeds obtained through those crimes. All monies will go to provide restitution to the victim.

    “Mirando chose to violate and abuse both his position of trust as a formerly licensed attorney and his position of trust as a court appointed guardian for the victim of this horrible fraud. Embezzling almost $600,000 from a vulnerable individual who was receiving medical treatment in order to maintain an extravagant personal lifestyle for himself and his family is inexcusable. Even more egregious, Mirando used his skills as an attorney to conceal the theft for three years by laundering the proceeds of the bank fraud scheme through the movement of cash between multiple bank accounts. The violation of such positions of trust should be severely punished as a deterrent”, said U.S. Attorney Shores.

    The victim told the court at length how Mirando’s fraud harmed her financially. The victim questioned why Mirando had made no attempt to repay her in the three years that had passed since the discovery of the crime in late 2015.

    Mirando was a self-employed, licensed attorney in the state of Oklahoma from 1989 until he was suspended in 2016 and then disbarred from the practice of law by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2018.

    The bank fraud violations stem from a scheme in which Mirando used his position as an attorney and court-appointed Guardian to steal funds from his client, by causing funds to be disbursed from the victim’s IRA account at Wells Fargo in St. Louis, Missouri, without her knowledge, to an account Mirando controlled at Tulsa Teachers Credit Union (“TTCU”) where he then would withdraw the funds in cash. Mirando would then engage in financial transactions with the stolen funds for his personal benefit with the intent to conceal the proceeds of the fraud.

    Beginning on January 3, 2013 and continuing through December 2015, Mirando requested distributions from the victim’s IRA account at Wells Fargo. When Wells Fargo would distribute the withdrawals to the TTCU account Mirando opened, Wells Fargo also withheld and paid Federal income tax and Oklahoma state income tax on each distribution. Mirando then would withdraw cash from the TTCU account and deposit the cash he withdrew into other accounts at TTCU in his name, his business’ name, and his wife’s name. The victim never made any cash withdrawals from the account at TTCU nor did the victim receive any cash directly from Mirando.

    To further conceal the scheme, Mirando would withdraw cash from the TTCU account, wait a couple of hours or sometimes a day and then make cash deposits into other accounts at TTCU with the aggregate amount being slightly different from the total cash withdrawal.

    Mirando had $782,357 under his control and custody, which was withdrawn from the victim’s IRA at Wells Fargo. From the foregoing amount, Mirando paid $121,000 directly to the victim and paid $14,074.23 to others on behalf of the victim.  The cumulative loss attributable to Mirando (inclusive of federal and state taxes that were paid by Wells Fargo on behalf of the victim), which were used for sentencing purposes, is in excess of $589,393.

    Most of the stolen funds appear to have been used to support the lifestyle of Mirando and his family members. The 306 cash withdrawals Mirando made totaling $466,950 were subsequently deposited into his personal account, his business account, and his wife’s personal account and used to pay personal expenses. Coupled with the federal and state taxes paid by Wells Fargo on behalf of the victim and taken from the victim’s IRA, the total loss for sentencing purposes was in excess of $589,393.

    This was a joint state/federal investigation involving the U.S. Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tulsa Police Department, and Tulsa County District Attorney.   Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles M. McLoughlin and Catherine J. Depew prosecuted the case.

    Full Article & Source:
    Disbarred Tulsa Guardian Attorney Sentenced to Prison for Nearly $600,000 Fraud

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    With an aging population that continues to expand, many hospitals are struggling to address a growing problem: how to treat patients who lack mental capacity to provide informed consent to medical care.

    When a patient lacks capacity to consent to his or her own care, unless the patient has a health care power of attorney, a living will or a legal guardian, a hospital must decide whether to provide medical care without first obtaining legal consent. To help address this problem, many hospitals have adopted policies that allow family members to consent to medical care on a patient’s behalf. In cases where a family member cannot be located, hospitals are usually left with no choice but to seek the appointment of a legal guardian by initiating legal proceedings with a probate court.

    Across Ohio, it has become increasingly difficult to identify guardianship applicants, and even when an applicant can be identified, it can take a month or more before a guardianship can be established. The inability to quickly locate a patient’s next of kin, and challenges with establishing court-appointed guardianships, often results in discharge delays, treatment delays and reduced bed space, all of which can increase costs and lead to poorer outcomes.

    In sum, patient incapacity can be complex, and many hospitals find it beneficial to receive guidance from legal counsel when confronted with these issues.

    Full Article & Source:
    Best practices for resolving incapacity issues, including navigating the probate court process for establishing guardianships

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    The Pennsylvania inspector general questioned the timeliness and thoroughness of investigations into allegations of abuse and neglect of the elderly. (Stephane De Sakutin / AFP-Getty Images)

    Society has a duty to protect its most vulnerable members. So it’s concerning to hear questions being raised about whether abuse and neglect of the elderly is being investigated promptly and thoroughly in Pennsylvania.

    The state inspector general’s office said in a report Tuesday that not all victims were being interviewed quickly enough. Also, deadlines for substantiating accusations were missed by county-level area agencies on aging, which investigate complaints.

    In fiscal year 2016-17, the area agencies received 18,275 complaints. They did not interview 3,724 of the alleged victims (20 percent) within three days. And they did not determine whether the abuse allegations were true in 7,859 of the cases (43 percent) within 20 days, according to the report. (It did not break down the data by county.)

    The inspector general questioned whether the priority status of complaints was being categorized consistently and whether investigations were thorough. The inspector general’s office said it was told during the probe that some area agencies on aging “have little or no medical support on their cases; do not consult nurses on basic fundamentals; and do not review medical records during their investigations.”

    The inspector general called on the Pennsylvania Department of Aging to more closely monitor the county agencies to ensure timely investigations. It also recommended the department hire more employees and improve training.

    The Department of Aging said many of the inspector general’s recommendations have been implemented, or will be.

    They include hiring a director of education and outreach to coordinate training; updating the content and improving the quality of training; and increasing the frequency of training. Policies and directives will be changed to ensure compliance with state law and a more consistent review and monitoring of area agencies on aging.

    “The Department of Aging has worked with area agencies on aging where there have been instances of noncompliance,” the department said in a statement, “and the agencies have been cooperative and diligent in their efforts to improve timeliness of their investigations to meet legally required timeframes.”

    While the department and the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging agreed that there is room for improvement, they sought to clarify some of the data cited by the inspector general.

    In a written response to the inspector general, the Department of Aging said investigations of financial exploitation are not required to be completed within 20 days, as it takes time to gather documentation. It said that generally, in abuse and neglect cases, 20 days is long enough to determine and document whether there is a need for protective services. It said more time may be necessary in some cases, though, and it’s important to take that time.

    “While extending the investigation beyond 20 days can needlessly prolong potential risk to the older adult reported to be in need of protective services, it is recognized that circumstances may arise that necessitates that more time is needed to conduct a thorough investigation,” the department said.

    There is no requirement for alleged abuse victims to be interviewed in person within 72 hours, said Rebecca May-Cole, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

    She said state law says a caseworker “shall make every attempt” to visit a victim within 24 hours for complaints classified as emergency and priority levels. For nonpriority cases, the law says investigations are to begin within 72 hours, with a visit to occur “at an appropriate point in the course of the investigation,” she said.

    The association and the department said more money must be spent to protect older adults, as the workload is increasing.

    May-Cole said complaints of abuse have been rising while funding and staffing at area agencies on aging has remained static. She said complaints rose 57 percent between fiscal years 2013-14 and 2017-18, and substantiated reports rose 47 percent.

    The state budgeted an additional $2 million last year for protective services for older adults. But another $6 million is needed, May-Cole said.

    The Department of Aging said it would work to obtain additional funding and support from the state Legislature, and would allocate additional employees to further support protective services staff.

    The inspector general questioned whether the priority status of some complaints was appropriately classified. In response, the Department of Aging said that as of this month, it started having state protective service specialists review all complaints that were classified as “no need” for investigation by area agencies on aging, to determine if they should be reclassified and looked into.

    The changes sound like a good start. It will be important for the inspector general to continue monitoring how older adults are protected.

    State lawmakers and the governor should consider the needs of the system as they develop their budget this year. Money must be spent wisely, but this is one area where inadequate funding can truly hurt vulnerable people.

    Full Article & Source:
    Paul Muschick: Pennsylvania's elderly deserve protection from abuse and neglect. Are they getting it?

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    © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc. Singer Aretha Franklin poses on the red carpet before the 38th Annual Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, DC.
    The Bloomfield Township, Michigan, police department is investigating a theft from Aretha Franklin's estate, which has been embroiled in controversy both before and since the late singer's death.

    Police Lt. Timothy Abbo told the Detroit Free Press late Thursday an active theft investigation is underway involving the Queen of Soul's suburban mansion, but that it started before Franklin's death. He offered no further details.

    Franklin died of pancreatic cancer in August in her Detroit riverfront apartment at the age of 76. At the time of her death, she still owned her 4,148-square-foot Colonial-style home in Bloomfield Township, which has drawn scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service.

    The theft investigation was first reported by The Blast, a celebrity news website that says Franklin's estate is locked in a battle with Franklin’s 61-year-old son, Edward, who was born when the singer was just 14.

    Edward, The Blast reports, has been trying to get a court order to force the estate to produce monthly financial documents to Franklin’s heirs. But the estate won't turn over the information because, it claims, that could negatively impact the criminal investigation involving missing assets from the estate.

    As of late Thursday, the Free Press could not reach attorney David Bennett, the estate's lawyer, for comment.

    In December, the IRS filed a claim in Oakland County Probate Court alleging the Franklin estate owed millions in back taxes and penalties. An attorney for the estate told the Associated Press that at least $3 million in back taxes had been paid back to the IRS since Franklin's death.

    According to TMZ, which cited court records in a December report, the late singer owed more than $6.3 million in back taxes from 2012 to 2018 and $1.5 million in penalties.

    "All of her returns have been filed," attorney David Bennett told the AP. "We have disputes with the IRS regarding what they claim was income. We claim its double-dipping income because they don't understand how the business works."

    According to Bennett, Franklin had a lot of expenses whenever she toured.

    "She had to pay for transportation, hotel rooms, backup singers, musicians. When she did that, the IRS was questioning the returns she filed," Bennett said. "We're going through audits. Returns were filed as timely as we could get them filed."

    Oakland County court documents did not mention the value of her estate, which could run into the tens of millions.

    Just weeks after her death, Franklin's Bloomfield Township home, which is part of a gated community, was listed for sale for $800,000, but it has since been taken off the market, according to The custom-built brick home features six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, white marble floors and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking two small ponds and a lap pool. There's also a sauna, a three-car garage and a jetted tub.

    Franklin reportedly bought the home for $1.2 million in 1997, according to the Detroit News. It was built in 1990 and remodeled in 2002.

    During her career, Franklin had been the target of a number of lawsuits by creditors.

    In 2008, Franklin said an attorney's mistake caused her $700,000 mansion in Detroit to slip into foreclosure over $445 in taxes and late fees. In 2015, a condo association sued Franklin in Oakland County Circuit Court over $11,500 in homeowner fees on her condo.

    Full Article & Source:
    Aretha Franklin's estate in turmoil as police investigate theft

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    Young child taken from grandparents and put into foster care because of their age

    A young child has been removed from the care of its grandparents and placed with foster carers despite protestations from the couple, the child’s school and doctors.

    The child had been living with its grandmother and grandfather for more than four years but they have been told they will never be approved as foster carers.

    In a letter – seen by - the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) told the couple they are too old to be the foster carers of their grandchild.

    They are both in their mid-60s. The child is in primary school.

    The child’s parents are not in a position to care for the child and the mother suffers with mental health difficulties.

    When the situation became apparent, the grandparents were happy to take care of him for the next four years.

    Formal fostering process

    For mostly age reasons, he was then removed from their home and placed with a foster family in another county.

    Tusla informed the husband and wife that because of the age gap between them and the child, they were not approved as foster carers.

    In order to convince Tusla they were capable, the couple had obtained full medical reports and went to parenting courses. “We are fit and well,” says the grandfather.

    They also collected testimonies from a number of people who declared the child was happy in their care and that they were capable of looking after the youngster.

    A consultant pediatrician from a large hospital, who treated the child for enuresis (bedwetting) wrote a letter to confirm that the child’s condition had improved and that the care of the child’s grandmother had “afforded a huge degree of stability”… and that it was clear the child felt “secure with its grandmother”.

    The letter urged that the child’s situation should not change:
    I would therefore be strongly opposed to any attempt to move [the child] from its present placement. [The child's] interests come first and this child is clearly doing well… moving [the child] from this environment would be detrimental to [the child's] welfare.
    The child’s school principal also testified to the child being “very happy”.

    The child’s local GP said the child had “not seen any evidence of physical, emotional or sexual abuse” and that “[the child] has always appeared happy and well cared for”.

    Despite these testimonies, the child was removed from its paternal grandparents and since then, they have sought justice through the courts.

    Age gap guidelines

    Tusla told there are guidelines in operation that state it is preferrable not to place a child in a home where there is a 40-year age gap or more between the carers and the foster child.

    However, this is not a hard and fast rule and is usually dealt with on a case by case basis. A spokesperson said this does not always apply in case of grandparents.

    The letter from Tusla to the grandparents said:

    Without doubt your love of [child's name] has not and is not in question. I know that you want the best for [this child]… as [child's name] grandparents you should and will play a significant role in [the child's] life – we recognise the importance of this relationship for both you and [child's name] and that relationship should be preserved and promoted as a grandparent relationship. However, you will not be approved as foster carers for [the child].

    Their lives were turned upside-down when the denial came through after a foster care committee assessment.

    When the grandparents asked Tusla for the reasons behind this refusal, the agency said one of the primary reasons was their age.

    Documents and correspondence from Tusla, seen by, list ‘Your Age’ as a reason, with the following explanation

    Your Age especially giving consideration to [child's name] young age – Fostering Standards specified that carers should be of an age that ensures there is a reasonable expectation that they can provide adequate care for the foster child in the future. It is recommended that there be no more than a 40-year age gap between foster carers and a foster child for whom they are caring.
    The letter goes on to say that this is just a guideline.

    While there can be some flexibility on this to a small degree, the 60-year age gap which exists between yourself and [child's name] is very concerning especially if [child's name] is to remain in long term care (which is the social work application before the court) until [the child] is 18 years.

    Following the child’s move to another county, Tusla told the grandparents in the letter that there was a “reasonable expectation” the foster carers would have both the “physical and emotional energies” to care for the child long term and through to adulthood.

    The letter acknowledges the “emotional attachment” the grandparents have to their grandchild, but said:

    … it is unreasonable to consider … you would have the same physical and emotional energies required to parent a teenager to the levels required of you in accordance with fostering standards. This concern would be the same for any applicants of your age.

    Tusla went on to outline other concerns, such as the grandmother’s “health needs”.

    She suffers from Type 2 Diabetes but is currently in gainful employment. She said she is willing to give up work if necessary to have her grandchild returned to her care.

    On that matter Tusla stated: “Just to say, we are mindful of [grandmother's name] health needs and while this is being managed at present, it is important that stress and demands of fostering doesn’t affect her own health particularly as she ages.”

    Other concerns listed included the fact the family owns a farm, with the agency stating its concerns about farm machinery safety, while also conceding the grandparents had “made efforts to improve the outside safety issues”.

    Restricted access

    It also makes reference to the poor communication between the family and the social workers involved. The grandparents say they have experienced numerous correspondence delays from social workers on occasions and “have been totally left in the dark”.

    The grandfather claims on numerous occasions meetings have been cancelled at the last minute and that one family meeting was arranged with the social work team in an open air park, which he believes was unprofessional. On another occasion it was meant to be in a local community centre but the team leader was more than an hour late.

    “How are we meant to work with a professional body like that when they can’t even act in a professional manner and then we are blamed?” he asked.

    Despite assurances that communication would be continued between the child and relatives, access has been restricted.

    “We have visitation but we want the child back and our grandchild is mad to come back to us, the child is not happy where it is,” they say.

    Just before Christmas, they were looking forward to having their grandchild visit over the holidays. This was pulled at the last minute. Due to the biological mother’s mental health difficulties, it was conveyed to the grandparents there were concerns the mother would act inappropriately while the child was present.

    “But sure we are aware of the situation, we would have kept the child safe, we know how to keep the child safe. This child is our pride and joy,” the grandfather told

    Despite having a court order for fortnightly visits, they claim access has been denied now.

    The grandfather said this was a result of them being given no information about the child’s whereabouts or contact details. “My wife was at her wits end,” said the grandfather.

    A recent meeting to try and resolve the access issue with the regional division of Tusla, the grandfather said it was “one of the worst days of my life”.

    “I have never felt so humiliated. My poor wife left in floods of tears after the way they treated us. We were told, ‘sure let the courts fix it’.”

    He said the child is much loved by the local community and its removal has been “devastating”. The whole matter has left the couple “utterly broken hearted”.

    He said while the case is ongoing they have had many sleepless nights with worry, and feel they have left on the “scrap pile”.

    “We are honest people, I’ve never been in court in my life. All we want is for our grandchild to come back to us,” he said.

    We cherish and adore this child, our number one pride and joy. We just want to see our grandchild develop and grow up to be a good citizen some day. But now we have been robbed of our greatest treasure.
    The grandparents also wanted to make it clear that they are not seeking any carers’ payment from the state and have paid out all their own fees in the courts.

    They are now running out of money to pay their legal team.

    The law will have to be changed for grandparents. I have more rights to my dog that I do to my own grandchild. Isn’t that a sad case? Something is wrong in this country.
    The grandfather said he has raised the issue with a local TD who brought it to the attention of former minister James Reilly. He said he believed Taoiseach Enda Kenny has also been informed about the case but that it is now a matter of “Tusla investigating Tusla”.

    “Tusla said they are investigating but they are just investigating themselves. Where is the justice in that? They have too much power.”

    Asked by about the situation, Tusla which said it could not comment on individual cases.

    In a statement the agency said: “… each prospective foster carer must be approved by the local Foster Care Committee.”

    These committees are made up of independent individuals, for example public health nurses, care leavers, etc., and Tusla staff. Foster Care Committee guidance sets out guidance on the criteria for approving prospective carers.
    In relation to age, the guidance recommends that there is no more than a forty year age gap between prospective carers and the children to be placed with them.
    However, the guidance makes clear that exceptions can be made where it is in the child’s best interests, for example where there is an established attachment between the child and carer.
    In making foster care placements, Tusla matches each child with a foster carer who is best suited to meet the child’s identified needs.
    In some cases, this may be a relative, in others it is with a general foster carer.
    Where a child is in a general foster care placement, part of the role of the general foster carer is to support the child in maintaining his/her relationship with his/her biological family.”
    The grandparents say they are willing for any custody arrangement to be reviewed every six months, and they hope, one day, the child’s parents would be in a better place to care for their grandchild in the future.

    Full Article & Source:

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    HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania state watchdog agency is criticizing how county-level agencies investigate thousands of complaints they receive about elder abuse and how the state ensures complaints are investigated adequately.

    Among the shortcomings identified by the Office of State Inspector General were failures to properly investigate complaints under timelines required by state law. A six-page summary of the report says investigative practices aren’t standardized across counties and it criticizes training requirements for caseworkers who are fielding a fast-growing number of complaints. 

    Complaints can involve physical abuse, self-neglect or financial exploitation. The Associated Press in 2017 reviewed hundreds of pages of Department of Aging records and found the performance of county-level agencies varied widely. 

    Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration cleared out the department’s top two officials and says it’s begun addressing the report’s findings. 

    Full Article & Source:
    Pennsylvania criticized for how it handles elder abuse cases

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