Breaking News - States

ARIZONA

  • We hope that everyone in Arizona knows about the Successful Aging program on Independent talk 1100 KFNX at 11:00 AM every Tuesday morning.  If you are interested in having them discuss a particular topic or to ask a question, they can be contacted at www.successfulaging.info
  •  Keep an eye on the Scam Alert on Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s website. To sign up        for scam alert, email communityservice@azag.gov  There is a toll-free number to call if          you have questions, 800 352-8431 or you can find information on www.azag.gov
  • There is a new initiative in Arizona called Bank Safe. It is a comprehensive training course to help frontline staff, as well as officers of financial institutions, to recognize and prevent financial elder abuse. If you want information you may call 602-542-2124 or email seniorabuse@azag.gov 
  • Attorney General Brnovich appears to be legitimately concerned with the welfare of Arizona’s senior citizens. However, it would be nice if the people’s representatives provided his office with better laws to facilitate the prosecution of those who would prey on Arizona’s senior citizens.
  • At this time, Arizona law protection is limited to “vulnerable adults” which complicate their effort to prosecute a case and, therefore, makes it much more difficult to prosecute these crimes.
  • Also, in their existing law, there is no definition of what constitutes deception, undue influence, or intimidation -  that’s a real gift to an abuser’s attorney.

CALIFORNIA

  • California has one of the fastest growing elder populations in the US
  • 112% increase in the 60 +  population
  • 143% increase in the 85+ population
  • The number of adults age 60+ will surpass the number of children age 0-17 by 2030
  • Note:  The 85+ population will emerge most strongly between 2030 – 2040, when the first baby boomers reach 85

Total financial abuse allegations increased 122% since 2010

A POSITIVE MOVE FORWARD IN SAN DIEGO

Though San Diego crime rate is at a 49-year low, its elder abuse rate continues to swell.

Paul Greenwood, who retired in March after a 20-year career of championing the safety of San Diego’s senior citizens, believes that one of the principle problems is the lack of proper training for police officers on how to address elder abuse. This lack of training results in a poor rate of investigation following complaints.  

He points to how vital information, provided by an aged victim with dementia, will get ignored because an inadequately trained officer has incorrectly assumed that the victim is incapable of being a credible witness in court. Or, officers will frequently refuse to deal with an allegation of financial exploitation because of a misinformed assumption that Financial exploitation is a civil matter. 

PERHAPS CHANGE IS ON THE WAY

Officials have now unveiled The Diego County Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Blueprint created through consultation with members of the Department of Aging and Independence Services, the City Attorney’s Office, local law enforcement offices and other individuals with expertise and first hand experience in dealing with the elder population and their needs. It outlines practices and responses that are 

intended to repair gaps in the systems of emergency dispatchers, first responders, follow-up investigators, prosecutors and various other relative agencies charged with protecting their senior population. 

This new Blueprint provides a specific list of questions for victims of neglect, and financial and physical abuse. There are specific guidelines on how to interview victims with reduced mental capacity 

including Alzheimer's and instructions to interview these victims in the morning, when they are more alert. It provides instructions on how to recognize and document nonverbal reactions and provided them with methods to help victims, who are often too embarrassed, or too afraid, to admit the abuse, feel more comfortable when speaking about the abuse to investigators 

District Attorney Summer Stephan sated. “Our society will be judged on how we treat our most vulnerable, including our children and our seniors.” .....Sheriff William Gore believes that this “…will ensure crimes against the elders and dependent adults will not fall to the wayside and will remain one of our top priorities moving forward.” 

At EARN, we certainly hope he is right. This Blueprint is the first of its kind and it look hopeful. However, in San Diego County, an estimated 53,200 cases of abuse have been going unreported each year and that is in addition to the average 10,125 cases that do get investigated.

Even the best Blueprint cannot alone bring an end to the abuse of our seniors - it takes help from the public. As they say, if you see something, say something.

DO NOT refrain from reporting you suspicions - they may prove to be wrong; on the other hand, they may be right and there is no crime in reporting.

AN BIG EARN PROJECT SHOUT-OUT to the county of San Diego. They have EARNed it

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WHY DOES CALIFORNIA NOT KEEP A REGISTRY OF FIRED ELDER CARE WORKERS?
 
A California woman has been arested for taking credit and debit card information , while working for an agency that provided home care for people with mobility issues, dementia, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and stroke. The woman and used the information to make online purchases, including food and liquor, and paid back cash loans with the victims' credit or debit card data.

  
Tustin police say the woman was not only out on bail, after being arrested for a previous incident of financial elder abuse, but had  been fired by at least three other agencies for the
same sort of crimes. 

Authoraties say, "Sadly, with the victims' conditions, they often don't know what is going on, it's possible there's more victims out there.”

Sadly, it would appear, lawmakers don't care. 

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A 59-year-old San Mateo California man faces 59 felony charges for, authorities believe, having taken more than $625,000 from eight San Mateo County residents for whom he worked as a financial and insurance advisor. 47 of the charges are for residential burglary because he met clients in their homes to whom he provided financial and insurance advice as a financial and insurance planner and allegedly took their money under the premise that he was investing it or purchasing insurance plans with it, according to prosecutors.

A Burlingame couple, in their seventies, with whom he met regularly, lost $218,000. They had also loaned him money because, according to him, his wife was seriously ill.

The couple had been led to believe that their investments were doing well until, in 2017, they are said to have received a letter from the IRS requesting more information about their investments. It was then that they discovered their money had been transferred to the abuser.

65 year-old woman was bilked out of $266,000, and an elderly couple lost $2,100 on the purchase of an insurance policy they never received.

 

CONNECTICUT

In New Haven, a mother and daughter have been charged with first-degree larceny, and conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny, after posing as a caregiver and an interior decorator for a 73-year-old woman from whose account they allegedly took over $800,000  using checks made payable to one or the other of them. They hid the funds in multiple accounts. 

One of the checks was used to purchase a BMW which was, purportedly, for the elderly woman but she told investigators that she was still waiting for the car to be delivered. The Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed that the BMW had been registered to the woman but then had been sold. One of the abusers used a handwritten power of attorney for that transaction and claimed the woman gave her permission to sell the vehicle, which she denies..

According to the investigators, the woman's front door lock was switched to a digital code lock, while the victim was visiting family out of state, after which, she had to rely on theabusers for access to her own home. While alone in the house, the pair had easy access to all of the vicim’s bank statements and financial documents. They also installed a surveillance camera allowing them 24-hour monitoring of the woman and her visitors.  

Both women were held on a $500,000 bond.

A BIG EARN PROJECT SHOUT-OUT to Bank of America and Merrill Lynch who after noticing “rapid [and] unexplainable changes in (the woman’s) spending habits, over a short period of time.” allerted authoraties. They have EARNed it. 


FLORIDA

For families with a parent in a Florida nursing home, it is important to know that in 2016, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that residents of nursing homes who lack the capacity to sign any contract cannot be held accountable to any agreement stated in that contract and that a signature of any individual other than the resident themselves (if they are competent) or a person to whom they have given their power of attorney, is invalid in enforcing the terms of the contract. Justice James EC Perry stated on behalf of the majority opinion “if we will not enforce a contract when a party agrees under threat of duress, then we should not enforce the contract in the absence of the parties’ agreement altogether.” Just being a son or daughter does not give you the authority to sign any legal contract. If your parent is not in an appropriate condition to give you their power of attorney, you should have a lawyer petition the court to make you your parents legal guardian, so you may advocate on their behalf. You can do this yourself, but we believe going through a lawyer is safer - you want to avoid the possibility of having an outside court appointed guardian.

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IT’S A START                                                                                                 
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg of the Southern District of Florida announced the largest ever coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in the history of the Department of Justice involving more than 250 charged defendants around the globe. In the Southern District of Florida, a total of 20 defendants were charged with offenses relating to their participation in various fraud schemes involving over $103 million.

The FBI, which is active in this effort has asked the public to call the FBI if any person believes they are the victim or have knowledge of fraud involving an elderly person, regardless of the amount  that has been lost

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AT EARN, WE BELIEVE ANY STATE THAT HAS NEGLETED TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST A NURSING HOME, WITH A LONG RECORD OF APPALLING FAILURE TO MEET STATE AND FEDERAL STANDARDS, AND THERE IS INJURY, NEGLECT, OR DEATH THAT OCCURS IN THAT FACILITIES,THAT INJURY, NEGLECT, OR DEATH CAN JUSTIFIABLY BE SEEN AS STATE SANCTIONED.

Florida USA Today Network’s Melanie Payne and Ryan Mills did a wonderful job revealing the blatent disregard for the health and safety of residents in Florida nursing homes - in fact 18 of them.

One 75-year-old resident, who had a history of wandering, was found dead, not by the nursing home staff but by a neighbor late the following afternoon. He is not the only patient in that same facility, with a history of wandering and/or mental confusion, that ended up drowned.

For over 18 quarters, that particular nursing home averaged 1.6 on a 5 point scale from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, had 186 state and federal violations, and had the dubious honor of being the 6th highest violator, for four years, on a list of 684 Florida nursing homes and had been cited for negligence in the death of at least five patients. 

They denied culpability and say they are “committed to providing exceptional health care.”  They settled three of the cases - the other two are still pending.

They are still going strong. May we bo so audacious as to ask Florida lawmakers EXACTLY WHATDOES IT TAKE FOR YOU TO ACT? 

According to this excellent investigation, conducted over an 18-month period of time, one institution after another received 100 or more violations; 54 have settled suits or have contested suits. Since 2013, at least 191 deaths have occurred and, though the nursing home owners denied responsibility, 87 have settled with 104 still pending.

These homes receive massive amounts of taxpayer money each year, pay nominal fees, when and if they are fined, because the Florida government rarely chooses to use the tougher sanctions that are at their disposal--Fines are low while nursing home owners grow wealthy.

According to the report, State inspectors identified patients in those homes who were sexually assaulted, beaten by staff members and other residents, or denied medication they needed to survive. One very badly treated patient kept telling his family:

“I don't want to die here. I don't want to die in this place.”

Well, he did!  And, it was not of natural causes.

How is it possible that, even though in 54 nursing homes, inspectors found more than 7,200 violations between 2013 and 2017 (261 being the most serious violations that relate to immediate harm or threats to patients)  and still, Florida’s taxpayer paid officials seem to think everything is just dandy? The Governor said, "I expect people to take care of the patients, and my goal is that government holds everybody accountable." He expressed 
confidencein AHCA. We would love to know why.

Floridians might want to remind their lawmaker of our favorite quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”
 
A BIG EARN PROJECT THUMBS--UP to Melanie Payne,Ryan Mills and Florida USA Today Network. They have EARNed it.

Keep watching and reporting and so will we.  In the meantime, we would suggest Florida residents read this excellent investigative article:
https://www.naplesnews.com/story/news/special-reports/2018/02/22/neglected-florida-worst-nursing-homes-left-open-despite-history-poor-care-deaths/315924002  

                                                                   

GEORGIA

Senate Bill 406, supported by Governor Nathan Deal, and sponsored by Senator Brian Strickland, requiring comprehensive FBI background checks and fingerprinting for direct care employees of nursing homes, personal care homes, assisted living communities, private home care providers and adult day care centers, is now law - and a very good one. 

It was as recommended by the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform. The Georgia Council on Aging identified it as one of its top priorities for 2018 and worked tirelessly to get it passed.
  
House Bill 803, sponsored by Rep. Wendall Willard, R-North Fulton, prohibits trafficking of older or disabled persons. By making this trafficking a specific crime, investigators and district attorneys are equipped with a 
better tool to help with prosecution.Until now, Georgia elder abuse laws have not specifically addressed trafficking of older adults or disabled persons. “Traffickers” had been taking possession of victims’ monthly benefits 
along with any other available asset, inflicting various other forms of abuse, and moving their victims from one facility to another in order to avoid detection by law enforcement.

HB 803 is now law—and a very good one. 

House Bill 635, sponsored by representatives Sharon Cooper, Tommy Benton, Sheila Jones, Bruce Broadrick, and Bert Reeves , and in the Senate by Senator Renee Unterman, authorizes district attorneys in each judicial 
circuit to establish an adult abuse, neglect and exploitation multidisciplinary team to coordinate investigations and responses to a suspected case of elder or disabled adult abuse, neglect or exploitation. 
HB 635 is now law - and a very good one.

Officials said these multi-agency teams will be able to work collaboratively to address elder abuse or neglect.  At the EARN Project, we are happy to see a project which should greatly improve the level of awareness and communication between agencies trying to protect the elderly and disabled people. 

A BIG EARN PROJECT SHOUT-OUT  to the state of Georgia for their increased determination to protect Georgia’s valuable senior population. They have EARNed it

Let’s hope now Georgians will suffer less and less incidents like the one in DeKalb County where investigators say three healthcare providers, now facing charges, failed to provide timely and necessary medical help, ignoring a dying man's cries for help.  Unfortunately,  this has not been uncommon in Georgia.

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Shoshannah Bryant, who has two family members in Georgia nursing homes says, "My biggest concern is abuse…I pray that it doesn't happen but it's possible because I'm not there 24/7 so I don't see everything that goes on in the facility," and, if you look at the statistics, she has good reason to be concerned. 

Back in 2005, the Chatham District Attorney installed a special prosecutor to deal solely with crimes against elderly and disabled people. District Attorney Meg Heap, who was the first to fill that role, said, "It's actually jaw-dropping in terms of the crime that was out there that was not being investigated." Assistant District Attorney Lindy Moody, who heads up the prosecution of crimes against the elderly, disabled adults and children for Chatham County, says the most common crime they see committed against the elderly and disabled adults are financial crimes by family members and caregivers that abuse the trust and access given to them.

According to DA Heap, "If one person is doing the caregiving in terms of physical needs, separate it and have somebody else take care of the financial.” That dichotomy may keep at bay any type of financial exploitation....The other thing I would say, If you have a senior, a mother a father or an aunt, if they're in a home, maybe a nursing home, go visit often, at different times.”

She says the frequent visits, and lack of a set schedule for these visits, keep nursing staff on their toes - the more you visit, the less chance of abuse. If you appear to not care, the staff care will diminish.  

In 2016, statistics obtained from the Georgia Crime Information Center show that more than 777 charges were filed against over 550 individuals for abuse, neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Latest National statistics tell us that only one in 14 cases of abuse is ever reported.  So, what is the actual number in Georgia— 10,101? Of course, we don’t know. But, one can be sure the number is much larger than 777. 

Certainly, no resident of Georgia wants their loved one to suffer mistreatment, or even die, at the hands of a nursing home employee. However, part of the blame lays with the public. The public, all across the US, have been alarmingly disinterested in elder safety - that is, until it hits their family. Georgians need to know their laws (The EARN Project makes that research easy - just go into the Georgia section in the drop-down menu on our website) and lobby for good laws to be passed in a timely fashion.

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Kathy Floyd who, in February, joined The Coalition of Advocates for Georgia's Elderly (CO-AGE) as Executive Director, has a strong background as an advocate for senior citizens and a vast knowledge of the aging network. She should be an excellent spokesperson for seniors and their families to work with law makers in an effort to improve Georgia’s response to complaints and and prosecution of abusers.

The Georgia Council on Aging was created by the Georgia General Assembly in 1977. Council members are appointed by the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Speaker of the House and the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services. The Council has twenty members, including ten consumers and ten service providers.

ILLINOIS

ILLINOIS

Officers from Danville, Catlin, Westville and Georgetown police departments, as well as Vermilion and Champaign county sheriff departments, received eight-hours of special training on Elder Abuse.

The principle subjects were understanding victim safety, being aware of and avoiding assumptions, recognizing abuser tactics and working collaboratively with others.

The Vermilion County Task Force was awarded a federal grant through the Department of Justice for this curriculum that is “proven to identify and curtail elder abuse,” according to a press release.

Sgt. Bill Hurt, one of the trainers, explained that elder abuse is a reoccurring issue in the area and that Adult Protective Services exist to help officers with cases.

The number of senior citizens in Vermilion County is higher than the U.S. percentage of the same age group.

According to the curriculum, for every case reported, there are 23 more that go unreported. The majority of victims are female.

Hurt said the worst elder abuse case he worked on involved a theft of more than $100,000, but the victim said the most painful experience was having his Bible taken away from him.

Another trainer said, “We don’t know the privileges we’ll lose when we’re older,” Morgan said. “The ones we have, we want to keep.

The police officers participated in the lessons and discussed ways to identify victims and abusers.

IOWA

OTTUMWA — Elder law webinars will be held throughout the spring. The dates are April 5 and 26, May 17 and June 7. and 28. Webinars run from 11 a.m. to noon.

Topics include planning to protect your future, family law issues for older adults, Medicaid eligibility for nursing home and in-home services, protecting yourself from elder abuse and financial exploitation, and the golden years of debt: surviving on a fixed income.
Webinars are free; to register, visit https://tinyurl.com/ElderLaw2018. For more information, call 800-992-8161 or email btharp@iowalaw.org.

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KANSAS

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, President of the National Association of Attorneys General, is very invested in the project Protecting America’s Seniors: Attorneys General United Against Elder Abuse. It is a collaborative efforts between federal, state and local authorities to coordinate a sweep of elder fraud cases. AG Schmidt, who has worked with law enforcement agencies in Kansas and other states to better combat physical and financial abuse of seniors, warns that placing someone in a position of power over money should be done with great care.  Consulting someone with knowledge expertise in managing of financial matters should be a prerequisite before entering into any financial agreements. 

Anyone who suspects physical or financial abuse of a senior citizen should contact their local authorities, or the Medicaid Fraud and Abuse hotline at (866) 551-6328.       

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KENTUCKY

Russell M. Coleman, US Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, has announced that one, among the 250 charged defendants in the department of justice sweep (see May Silver Standard article by Romona Paden), is a Louisville financial advisor. He has been charged with multiple counts of investment advisor fraud, money laundering, aggravated identity theft, and wire fraud. 

The 34-year-old man was charged with obtaining over $800,000 by misappropriating monies of clients of his investment company and using the money for personal expenses.

Authoraties say the accused man is alleged to have made numerous false statements, assurances, and representations to clients regarding the nature of their investments.  In addition, he is alleged to have solicited business through false advertising. He 
also convinced his clients to authorize access to their accounts at brokerage firms and financial planning businesses; he forged client signatures on official financial documents; and charged (an over-charges) his clients for work that was never done. 

The FBI, which is active in this effort, has asked the public to call the FBI if any person believes they are the victim or have knowledge of fraud involving an elderly person, regardless of the loss amount. 

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MARYLAND

In January, Maryland launched PROTECT WEEK bringing together financial institutions, elder-care advocates and the state attorney general's office to educate the public on the various forms of financial abuse, neglect and exploitation.  

Maryland is already ahead of many states in that they have a financial elder abuse law which is based on age and their definition of “deception” provides a barricade that is very difficult for a slippery abuser to squeeze through.

We hope they will make PROTECT WEEK a yearly event 

 

MASSACHUSETTS 

March Against Elder Abuse: 11 a.m. June 21. This march brings attention to 
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. One in 10 Americans 60 and over have experienced 
some form of elder abuse. March with other participants and work together to stop 
elder abuse. Please register at 508-830-4230 by June 14.

A BIG EARN SHOUT-OUT to the Plymouth The Center for Active Living, located at 44 Nook Road, for organizing this march.

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JUNE 12, 2108 CONFERENCE
Debbie Noury, Senior Director of Fraud Investigations for Elder Financial Exploitation (a group within Fidelity Investments), in partnership with the Duxbury Police Department will conduct a conference on elder abuse to be held at the Duxbury Senior Center between 1:00pm to 3:00pm. 

Education and awareness are vital to preventing elder financial exploitation. They say this meeting is to instruct the public on how to recognize red flags, and scams targeting the elder demographic, and the best practices to protect against becoming a victim. Family members and caregivers are strongly encouraged to attend.   Call (781) 934-5774 x5716 to reserve your seat.

We hope more police departments around the country will follow suit. Perhaps Fidelity can take the first step by offering to partner with any police or sheriff’s department willing to do this sort of educational 
outreach in their town

A BIG EARN PROJECT SHOUT OUT TO FIDELITY INVESTMENTS and the DANBURY POLICE department for realizing that education is a vital element in preventing elder abuse. They have EARNed it!

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MINNESOTA

The Minnesota State Health Department received more than 25,000 reports of maltreatment in state senior care facilities in 2016,  but investigated only about 3 percent of these complaints which included neglect, financial exploitation, physical and sexual abuse.

Hopefully, things are going to change

Gov. Mark Dayton called for sweeping changes in how the state investigates abuse along with new laws to protect victims. The governor, along with members of the House and Senate, said that he is committed to improving the state’s protections this year.

Senator Karin Housley, who chairs the Senate long-term care policy committee, said she is committed to ending “the culture of neglect and intimidation that has permeated the bureaucracy,…”

After a nearly year-long review, Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles released a report documenting overburdened investigators, and high staff turnover, resulting in low morale and lapses in record-keeping, at the office charged with monitoring licensed health care facilities and the older adults they care for.

Health Department Commissioner Jan Malcolm told lawmakers that Nobles report was “extraordinary…incredibly helpful.”  He said he agreed with the “terms of the spirit and substance of the recommendations…virtually every one of them...We do believe that all the attention that's been brought to this, and the concern that rightfully elevated this as a priority, is serving to get us all focused on building a more robust processes."  

Under this new leadership, Minnesota is streamlining the way they process complaints and case record systems. They have developed a standard list of questions, for evaluating and categorizing complaints, determine the type of response needed, and investigate promptly. They say they also intend to provide those who have filed complaints with more frequent updates. 
Gov. Mark Dayton is firmly behind this and we hope they will now move on to toughen penalties for abusers, and oversight of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and guardians. 

Comparing the 700 reports over a six-week period during January and February to the 3,100 reports over the same period last year, Commissioner Malcolm.appears to have blown in some fresh air, we just hope that he and the governor will be able is to remain standing in the face of the tornado of nursing home lobbyists. 

However, the momentum towards change has a lot to do with Minnesota citizens themselves. If they are truly concerned with the well-being of their elderly, they must present a front powerful enough to overcome the incentives waved under the noses of lawmakers by the very powerful nursing home, and professional guardianship lobbyists who spent nearly $1 million on lobbying in 2016 and 2017, have two dozen registered lobbyists, and have expanded their numbers in St. Paul.

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The response to some appalling video recordings of St. Paul and Minneapolis facilities, led to some legislators to propose that families of residents be allowed to legally record their loved in these facilities.  A 17-member work group was formed and, surprise--surprise, rather than passing the bill, they recommended no changes be made to state law and nothing was done!

The Star Tribune quotes Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, chairman of the Senate Human Services Finance and Policy Committee, as saying “Almost every legislator from greater Minnesota is on a first-name basis with at least one nursing home manager or owner.”  Do legislators believe this justifies making Minnesota’s elderly and infirmed, secondhand citizens behind the legislators’ nursing home buddies?  Did the nursing home owner’s legislator buddies run on that citizens’ last platform? Better ask them next election season.

The Minnesota Legislative Auditor has publicly acknowledged that the agency responsible for protecting seniors in those homes has been turning a blind eye to sexually assaults, physical attacks and beatings, and robberies in these facilities. The Star Tribune did an excellent series of articles on nursing home abuse that should have scared the stuffing out of every Minnesotan.  

In a Senate committee hearing while Senator Karin Housley, chairwoman of the Senate Aging Committee, made her case for a package of reforms intended to protect Minnesota seniors from abuse, a couple of lobbyists, who Josh Berg, (former high-ranking official with the Minnesota Health Department and member of an industry task force on elder abuse) said “are remarkably skilled at wearing down their opponents and killing stuff at the Legislature” would interrupt every few minutes.  They would keep stepping to a microphone to launch a diatribe on the unbearable and unfair burden each proposal would impose on nursing homes. They eventually were able to turn the entire focus of the hearing, from Senator Housley’s desire to protect Minnesota older citizens, to a pity party for the poor mistreated nursing homes and whining about the diminishing number of patients in these facilities.

In a video produced as a lobbying effort, nursing home members are encouraged to donate to the industry group's political action committee, CARE-PAC and lobbyists are singing "Dough, the stuff that buys us time… Far, a long, long way dough goes!" while waving $20 bills."  These are the people who are caring for Minnesota’s senior family members and they are very powerful.  

Looking at the number of families understandably rejecting the idea of placing their loved ones in a senior-care home, but facing the reality of the frequently unavoidable need for senior care, every citizen of Minnesota had better join in forming a citizens lobby stronger than that of the nursing homes, or it will be their loved one next, and then them, and then their children and their children’s children because greed does not die - it has to be eliminated.    
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Over five years, complaints of abuse have gone from 15,700 to 24,000 while, at the same time, investigators are poorly trained and can have more than 40 open cases assigned rather than the 15 which is considered appropriate. One auditor is quoted as saying “I was set up to fail, and I can never catch up.”
 Judy Randall, who lead a team of auditors monitoring investigators, said “It took a long time for the problems to get as bad as they are…. It’s going to take a long time to get it back to where it needs to be.” The EARN Project certainly hopes that Ms. Randall’s loved ones are not one of those being abused while they “take a long time.”

They say they are open to recommendations from lawmakers and others with a stake in the operations of care facilities. We say all Minnesotans have a stake in the operations of care facilities.
In the meantime, we give A BIG EARN PROJECT SHOUT-OUT to Governor Dayton, Senator Housley and Commissioner Malcolm for the effort they are making. They have EARNed it.

We would like to know of any other legislator who is fighting this honorable fight.

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NEVADA

Nevada was part of the national sweep announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions (see this month breaking news  - Federal) and Attorney General Adam Laxalt said “Elder exploitation and abuse is a growing problem, and my office has partnered with state and federal agencies in a national effort to express our joint commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in our communities….In Nevada and other states, members of our elderly population are exploited and abused by professional guardians, friends and even family members….My office is proud to have created a Financial Fraud Unit dedicated to this mission, which has charged the most significant guardianship indictment in Nevada’s history.” (See March archived article A Trial in Vegas.)

Nevada has also prosecuted:

Yohannes Habtemicael, who, as the appointed guardian of his father, used more than $88,000 of his father’s money for personal use. Habtemicael was convicted of Theft and Embezzlement with a sentence of 2-10 years in prison and ordered to pay full restitution.

Wade Fordin, who, after being appointed permanent guardian of his elderly mother and her estate, used his mother’s funds for personal expenses. He was charged with one count of Conspiracy to Commit Exploitation of an Older Person and one count of Conspiracy to Commit Theft.

Wendy Rudder, contracted by Lincoln County to provided public guardian services, made unauthorized withdrawals from a ward’s guardianship account. She pleaded guilty to one count of Misconduct of a Public Officer and was sentenced in the spring of 2015.

This is not a very impressive number of cases being prosecuted but it would appear Attorney General Adam Laxalt is more serious about this than previous Attorney Generals and has every intention to really go after these offenders. We will look for a much larger number in the future.

The FBI, which is also active in this effort, has asked the public to call the FBI if any person believes they are the victim of, or have knowledge of fraud involving an elderly person, regardless of the loss amount.

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Attorney General Laxalt’s office has released a guide, partially funded through the Federal Office on Violence Against Women, to help law enforcement and others recognize elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

They say that this is just the first step in a statewide training program that will not only help to recognize the signs of elder abuse but to provide law enforcement with options including crimes to consider when investigating elder abuse and how to access civil legal remedies in those cases.

AG Laxalt, saying "The ultimate goal is to ensure that Nevada's vulnerable elderly population obtains needed services no matter how they come in contact with state or local government," assured elderly victims of domestic and sexual violence, stalking, financial exploitation and neglect, that grant money had also been set aside to provide services for them.

The guide can be found at ag.nv.gov under the Consumer Support, Senior Protection section.

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE


Bill, HB 1807,  presented by state Representative Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, is intended to allow disabled  and vulnerable adults, as well as certain elderly people, to acquire relief from financial exploiters by submitting a petition to a judge asking for immediate relief from abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Cheryl Steinberg, a senior Law Project director who helped write the bill, said that it would help “stop the bleeding” for victims in need of immediate relief. 

Unlike in the past, HB 1807 would make the petition process an easy one and result in fast relief and the ability to prevent assets from being drained.

The bill was inspired by a case of Ms. Steinberg’s - an elderly woman entrusted her children with too much power. They, in turn, squandered her money and then demanded she pay them rent to live in her own home of 40 years. 

A judge allowed the woman to move back into the home - but he rewarded the kids for their evil deeds by ruling that they could inherit the house. 

This woman was fortunate enough to find free legal help. Most seniors aren’t that fortunate and most cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Ms. Steinberg said, “We can’t help everybody…By the time we usually get involved, the money’s gone.” 

This bill would only allow victims, guardians and the state Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services to file. Though an improvement, it leaves a wide range of abuse still unprotected. Steinberg’s answer was that being too lenient with who can submit the petition could open the door to abusers playing the system to exploit the victim even more. We say - that is not an acceptable answer. Smart legal minds should be able figure out a way to prevent that.

A BIG EARN SHOUT-OUT to Representative Renny Cushing and Cheryl Steinberg. The have EARNed it.
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Why has S.2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, still not been passed into law?  This bill would provide legal immunity to trained financial services employees who disclose concerns about financial exploitation of senior citizens.

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NEW JERSEY
Authorities say a 62 year- old New Jersey woman has been charged with theft by deception for stealing more than $150,000 from her elderly neighbor who had trusted her with her power of attorney.  The trusting neighbor was left bankrupt and on public assistance.

The money was used to enrich the abuser and her family and to pay for construction of an addition to her own home.

 

NEW MEXICO

The state maintains a 24-hour hotline to report elder abuse. The number is 1-800-445-6242.

The government of New Mexico paid $285,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the state’s former chief advocate for residents of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

Sondra Everhart, had served more than a decade as New Mexico’s long-term care ombudsman, claims she was terminated because of her advocacy on behalf of boarding home residents, her request that the agency do more to protect the elderly from financial exploitation, her attempts to combat Medicaid fraud by the department and her proposal that the ombudsman office be separated from the Department of Aging and Long-Term Services.

The department denied these allegations and said Ms. Everhart had been dismissed for unlawfully providing a newspaper with records of conditions in boarding homes in the Las Vegas, NM area that care for released patients of state psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas.

Employees, in the office that Ms. Everhart previously oversaw, make regular visits to long-term care facilities to investigate complaints, help resolve resident concerns and ensure quality care. The jobs of long-term care ombudsmen are federally funded positions, and U.S. law prohibits state interference in the duties of the advocates.

In her complaint, Ms. Ms. Everhart states that, not long after she complained to the federal government that the Department of Aging and Long-Term Services was interfering with her responsibilities, the department sought advice on how to remove Everhart and were advised that the removal would likely run afoul of federal law and be retaliatory toward Everhart.

The Department of Aging and Long-Term Services has claims that they sought advice on how they could make the ombudsman job exempt from the state’s merit-based civil service system. Ms. Everhart, a classified, or civil service employee, served at the will of the state’s chief executive.

After Ms. Everhart sued, the department said she was doing a great job until she broke the law by releasing the boarding home records to the Albuquerque Journal, which had filed an open-records request for the documents and who, subsequently, published a series of stories on substandard conditions at, largely unregulated, boarding homes in Las Vegas.

All ombudsman records being requested are confidential and don’t have to be disclosed under the state Inspection of Public Records Act. However, state regulations require that the ombudsman make a reasonable effort to grant records without revealing client information

Ms. Everhart did redact names from the documents, but the department has said the redactions were inadequate.

Last year, The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, a nonprofit organization, honored Ms. Everhart for releasing the boarding home records.

A BIG EARN PROJECT SHOUT-OUT to Sondra Everhart, working in a state that has not made appropriate laws to protect senior citizens.  They should have been having her train more advocates not fire her.

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The Governor and Attorney General and all legislators should get behind an amendment to get law reference #

  • They don’t have a law that defines who is elderly,
  • They don’t have a law that covers Financial elder abuse—though it is the most frequently committed abuse,
  • They do not have defined penalties for financial exploitation of elders.
  • They do have a law that makes a duty to report elder abuse and a penalty for failure to report—so New Mexico makes money from fines for people who fail to report but no laws concerning the abuse that was reported.
  • They have no stated definition of deception,
  • No stated definition of Undue Influence
  • no stated definition of Intimidation.

This is how New Mexico defines Financial Exploitation:

An unjust or improper use of a person's money or property for another person's profit or advantage, pecuniary or otherwise

This is how Alabama defines Financial Exploitation:

 The use of deception, intimidation, undue influence, force, or threat of force to obtain or exert unauthorized control over an elderly person's property with the intent to deprive the elderly person of his or her property or the breach of a fiduciary duty to an elderly person by the person's guardian, conservator, or agent under a power of attorney which results in an unauthorized appropriation, sale, or transfer of the elderly person's property

MUST MAKE NEW MEXICAN’S FEEL REAL SAFE AS THEIR 65 BIRTHDAY ARRIVES.

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Do you feel comfortable knowing that in your state, perhaps not far from where you live, a human being is not being treated as well as your local animal shelter treats its residents?

Only one boarding home in Las Vegas – the Loving Care Shelter Home – is licensed by the Health Department as an assisted living facility, and the department hasn’t conducted a full inspection of the home since 2007 when it found several licensing compliance problems were discovered, including too many residents for its license, lack of staff training, lack of individual service plans for residents, failure to have residents’ medication regimens reviewed by a pharmacist, failure to have the heating system tested and lack of criminal history checks for staff.

The home also doesn’t have an active state Board of Pharmacy permit to store and dispense residents’ medications, as required by the department’s rules for assisted living facilities, according to Board of Pharmacy records.

When asked why the home hadn’t been inspected for nine years, a Health Department spokesman declined to respond.  He also declined to say when it would be inspected, saying the department doesn’t announce when it plans to make inspection.

Although the Loving Care Shelter Home is the only boarding home classified as an assisted living facility in Las Vegas, there are several other boarding homes in the same area that care for patients discharged from the state’s only public psychiatric hospital.

The Health Department says it doesn’t have the authority under state law to regulate those boarding homes because they don’t qualify as assisted living facilities. Why has nothing been done about this?

An excellent Journal investigation found that residents of some boarding homes live in crowded conditions and may go hungry because of inadequate meals provided by operators. There are also reports of all manner of abuse by the operators, as well as violence and drug abuse by residents.

 “For years, we’ve seen a flurry of activity after something bad happens – and then things die down. It is likely because these individuals (with mental illness) have no power and no voice,” says Nancy Koenigsberg, senior attorney at the nonprofit advocacy group Disability Rights New Mexico.

Lynn Gallagher, former deputy health secretary and now head of the department, said, “If the Department shuts down a home, we must have a place for those individuals to go.”

Troy Jones, before leaving this year as executive director of the state mental hospital, said the facility is in the behavioral health business and doesn’t have the resources to assess living conditions in boarding homes.

“I’ll leave that to the experts in that area,” he said.

So, everyone passes the buck and, unless New Mexico residents insist on it, nothing will be done.

NEW YORK

WHERE CAN YOU GET CONVICTED OF DRUNK DRIVING, NOT GO TO WORK FOR 213 DAYS, AND NOT ONLY GET PAID $187,200 A YEAR, BUT GET A RAISE? 

NEW YORK STATE THAT’S WHERE!

IF THEY DO THIS IN NY STATE, YOU CAN BE PRETTY SURE THEY DO IT IN YOUR STATE.  PERHAPS RETIRED SENIOR CITIZENS, WHO HAVE SOME EXTRA TIME, SHOULD BEGIN CALLING THEIR SENATORS TO ASK.   BECAUSE, IT IS NOT ONLY MONEY OUT OF YOUR POCKET BUT  ALSO  AN INCREASE IN THE WORK LOAD Of OTHER JUDGES WHICH CAN, AND DOES, CREATE LESS THAN APPROPRIATE ATTENTION BEING PAID TO CASES OF ELDER ABUSE.

A Rochester City Court Judge who did not work for 213 out of 214 days and, who a Chief Administrative Judge acknowledges is still not showing up for work as she was directed to do, was given a pay raise…out of money paid in taxes by hard-working NY citizens who, if they don’t show up to work, get fired - not pay raises. But, in Rochester N.Y., if you are a judge, and you don’t show up for work, you not only can get paid $187,200 a year but also get a raise. 

To add insult to injustice to NY taxpayers, she was convicted of DWI. Yes, dear tax payers, in February 2017, she was sentenced to 60 days in jail, three years of probation, and six months with an alcohol ankle monitor after causing a 2016 accident on her way to sit in judgment of the everyday working, tax paying, sober driving, New Yorkers who pay her salary. 

On February 23, after having been absent since August 31, she was ordered to return to work on legal matters that did not put her on the bench. The poor dear produced a letter from her doctor saying she could not work. Do you think, had she been obligated to go to the court house to collect her pay check, she would have showed up?

It is the responsibility of The New York State Judicial Conduct Commission to do something about this.  Have they?  Of course not!  There are a lot of senior citizens in NY who pay taxes and want to know that their money is being spent well and, just in case they are unfortunate enough to run into elder abuse, don’t want a shortage of good judges. Perhaps they had better place their collective toe under a few people’s backsides. 

What we would suggest, in any state that does this sort of thing, is, if you pay taxes - write letters - say you do not wish to employ such an individual and any elected official who does will not get your vote.

 

NORTH CAROLINA

  • 37-year-old Monica Marie Gunter, a Chatham County Assisted Living Facility worker, has been charged with exploitation of elder trust, identity theft, financial card fraud, obtaining property by false pretense and financial card theft. Those are all felony charges, according to law enforcement.
  • Authorities say a report of suspected financial abuse was filed after “numerous unauthorized and costly charges” were discovered on an elderly resident’s bank statement.  An investigation turned up video footage from multiple retail stores showing the abuser using what appeared to be the victim’s debit card which, when confronted, she claimed to have been given a third-party permission to use. That claim proved to be false.
  • Gunter received a $5,000 unsecured bond and is scheduled to appear in Chatham County District Court in Pittsboro on January 22.

 

OHIO

Senate Bill 158 focusing on key components of awareness, education and enforcement, has passed on a 33-0 vote in the Senate and now goes to the House of Representatives.  

The bill's sponsor Sen. Steve Wilson, R-Maineville, said that this would require interagency collaboration to develop best practices and streamline educational opportunities relating to the detection and prevention of fraud and exploitation of this population. 

According to Federal Trade Commission data, 77,213 fraud-related complaints and 11,009 complaints of identity theft were reported to Ohio law enforcement agencies in 2016 - just those reported.
A provision of SB 158 would require the Ohio attorney general to distribute no less than six public awareness publications each year in order to improve awareness among the general public and provide basic information on the warning signs of senior fraud. 
Under the bill, offenders convicted of committing certain financial crimes against seniors, would be required to make them pay full restitution. They would also be made to pay an additional fine of up to $50,000 to be given to the county department of Job and Family Services to support investigation and reporting of further instances of crimes against seniors, or for the arrangement of protective services. 
It also adds dealers, salespersons or investment advisor representatives to the list of mandatory reporters of adult abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
Current law provides that county departments of Job and Family Services are required to begin investigating reports of adult abuse, neglect, or exploitation within three working days of receiving the report.
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The Erie County’s prosecutor has hired Retired Perkins police officer Dan McLaughlin as a new special investigator to oversee elder financial abuse cases.
“We’re excited to have him onboard and believe the program will be more successful because of his expertise and familiarity with law enforcement in the community,” Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter said.
Considering that only 1 in 24 cases of abuse are reported, Sue Daugherty, executive director of Serving Our Seniors which is providing part of the funding to study, said “You can imagine how much of this is going on that isn’t being reported…I would like people to know if they report suspected elder abuse they don’t have to be right, that's the investigator’s job.”
Since The program began in March of 2015, multiple indictments have been made representing $250,000 was taken from elderly people in Erie County alone.
Cases of financial elder abuse can be reported anonymously by calling Serving Our Seniors at 419-624-1856 or by calling Adult Protective Services at 419-626-5437.

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Medford police arrested a health worker who is now charged with Attempted Murder x2, Money Laundering, Aggravated Theft x7, Theft 1 x13, Criminal Mistreatment 1 (Financial) x4, and Criminal Mistreatment 1 (Physical).
The woman had taken control of the finances of two elderly people in her care and stolen more than half of a million dollars from the pair. 
While under the health workers care, the elderly victims had demonstrated a rapid rate of decline inconsistent with their previous medical records. When the abuse was uncovered, the abuser was in the process of seeking to place both in hospice care which would have unquestionably led to their deaths. Both victims have since made a full recovery.

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In Hancock County, an area with an increasing senior population, elder abuse cases rose from 162 in 2014 to 225 in 2017.  Officials say that many of these cases are directly linked to opioid addiction.  They say that they see cases where an addicted caretaker has physically abused or neglected an elderly patients or family members; stealing from them, threatening or tricking them into handing over money.  Often leaving responsible people, who had saved for a secure retirement, penniless and having to turn to the government for assistance and in some cases civil protection orders or emergency shelter. 
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If you have a beloved relative who, because of mental retardation, must be institutionalized in Ohio and you don’t live in Ohio - watch out!

The body of a 76 year-old woman has been in a Ohio mortuary for more than a year now and her loving family is still not being told what happened to her.

The woman, though developmentally disabled, was able to take care of her own hygiene, cook and clean. She had a loving family who, because they did not live near her group home facility, would fly her home for the holidays.

When the principal family member suffered from failing health, rather than contact another member of the family, a social worker contacted a guardian who, with a lawyer, prepared and filed papers with the court. An investigator was sent to evaluate her and, after his report and unbeknownst to her family, a hearing was held where a magistrate 

determined that she did in fact need a guardian. The guardian could very well have been one of those loving family members - “all they would have had to do was ask” said her nephew. Instead, the guardian, on the application he filed with the probate court, stated that there was no known next of kin.

Her brother only learned that the guardian had mover her when he called the facility where she had been happily living and was told she was no longer there. Then, on Christmas Eve 2016, just after midnight, he received a call to tell him "your sister passed away tonight."  He was not told the cause of death and, when he asked, the guardian got on the phone to say he didn't have anything else to do with it.

Her body was taken to a funeral home that did not want her because she was an indigent case and packed her off to a local mortuary. But why, after a full year, is her un-embalmed and un-burried body, still in that mortuary? Because of convoluted Ohio laws.

All the Mortuary can do is accept the body. They cannot do anything to the body because there is no death certificate and no listed cause of death. Had they done an autopsy, they would have ascertained the cause of death, a death certificate would have been issued, this poor woman would have been put to rest, and her family would have some peace.

The owner of the Mortuary very kindly reached out to the family, offering to bury the woman and give her a proper funeral at their expense, but to do this he needs a funeral home and funeral director to process a death certificate, for a doctor to sign the death certificate, permission from her family, and a few more pieces of information.

The mystery is why do they not have a cause of death. Fox news, who did a very good job covering the story, tried to reach the guardian to ask that question but he would not talk to them. 

All of this could have been avoided if her family had been notified when it was decided that the woman was in need of a guardian. But Ohio Revised Code 2111, which states that next of kin who live out of state do not need to be notified and Ohio does not track indigent cases.

Is it better to hand her over to a guardian who, once she is dead and there is no money to be made, just dumps her like yesterday’s trash?

Oregon

The AARP “Tribute to Champions” award, that recognizes former public servants who were champions for older adults during their legislative services, was presented to the families of Sen. Alan Bates and Rep. Vic Gilliam in honor of their extraordinary dedication to Oregon’s senior citizens.

Senator Alan “Doc” Bates served as co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services from 2009 until his death in 2016. He championed the fight for long-term supports and services for the vulnerable and worked to stabilize the budget at Oregon’s Department of Human Services.

AARP will donate $500 to the Alan C. Bates Scholarship at Western University of Health Sciences in the Senator’s honor.

Representative Gilliam, along with Rep. Val Hoyle, co-founded the Elder Abuse Prevention Task Force and he championed many bills to protect older Oregonians from fraud and abuse. Unfortunately, due to ill health, he had to leave office in 2017.

Also honored were Sen. Richard Devlin, Sen. Jackie Winters, and Rep. Nancy Nathanson for their work to preserve funding of services that allow older Oregonians continuing to live in their own homes.  

 

RHODE ISLAND

Rhode Island United States Attorney Stephen G. Dambruch and Raymond D. Moss, Acting Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Boston Division, announced the arrest of a 47 year old Pawtucket RI man, who was among the 250 charged in the DOJ sweep. He has been charged with mail fraud, conspiracy, wire fraud, and international money laundering.

According to court documents filed, the Pawtucket man participated in a telemarketing lottery scam, that netted $98,100 from at least 47 individuals, many of them American seniors. The scammers, using unsolicited telephone calls, and claiming to work for recognizable organizations, told the victims they had won a large cash prize, or other substantial prizes. The victims were then asked to make an upfront payment to cover taxes or fees, transferred, for the most part, electronically to individuals in Jamaica.

Postal Inspection agents, and members of the Pawtucket Police Department, Rhode Island State Police and the U.S. Marshals Service, executed a court-authorized search of the suspect’s residence and arrested him at his work place.

He was released on $10,000 unsecured bond and was ordered to be monitored, with a GPS system, following his initial appearance in U.S. District Court. States Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island.  

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ANY COURT THAT DOESNOT HARSHLY PUNISH AN ELDER ABUSERS IS AS RESPONSIBLE FOR ABUSE AS THE PERPETRATOR

Judging from this case,  Bristol County Rhode Island could be a dandy vacation stop for financial abusers - a real highlight on the abuser itinerary.  Not only do they not make you pay it all back, but there are no penalty charges or jail time.  

A 63 year-old woman was arraigned in 2016 on three counts of   larceny over $250 and one count each for forgery of a check and elder abuse for having embezzled more than $83,000 from her mother over a four-year period.

The Judge ordered the abuser to pay $50,000 in restitution to her 88 year-old mother and continued the case for three years without a finding.

The Bristol County District Attorney Tom Quinn states that “the disposition of the case was discussed at length with the victim” who was satisfied with the final restitution amount.  But, the victims’ daughter says, her mother, who is mentally lucid and alert, was angry about the outcome of the case and was not at all satisfied with the final restitution amount. She said that, though the assistant district attorney handling the case had promised to stop by her mother’s apartment the week before the sentencing, he did not appear until after the sentencing when the prosecutor came to deliver a check for $15,000 the abuser had written out.

The daughter also disputes the District Attorney’s claim that “It is very unlikely that anything above $50,000 could have been proven.”  “There was a paper trail, there’s no question about it, she would have been found guilty at trial,” she claims.

 She said the abuser, who had sold her Rhode Island house for $400,000 and owns properties in Florida and Maine, should have been held responsible for the entire amount. At EARN we ask: why was there no jail sentence and why was there no financial penalty charged?

.Bristol County District Attorney Tom Quinn does not appear to have been listening to himself when he warned that financial, elder abuse was a growing phenomenon saying “It’s rampant.”

District Attorney Quinn - if you want to do something other than talk about it, get tough with abusers. Rhode Island has some very good elder abuse laws at your disposal.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA

When the EARN Project began, it was hard to believe stories like this. Now, we see so many of them, we have had to face the reality that this kind of inhumanity is going on every day in every state:

In South Carolina, Deputies told a magistrate, who issued search warrants, that the 74-year-old woman had fallen and her 39-year-old caretaker son had made no effort to assist her or call for help. The warrant states, that he admitted that she had attempted to communicate with her son for some time after having fallen.

Instead, he admitted, he saw her "squirming", ignored her for 24 hours, and then reported her death.

They say, the man, admitted that he knew she would probably die and wanted her to die.

According to a warrant, the motive was—$30,000 in her bank account.

 

TENNESSEE

Among the cases caught up in the DOJ sting (See May Breaking News) is one of several elder fraud and abuse cases and investigations currently pending in the Middle District of Tennessee.

The Middle District of Tennessee’s Elder Justice Task Force meets regularly to discuss issues facing senior citizens.  The Task Force includes representatives from the FBI, HHS, TBI, Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, and the Tennessee Department of Health along with other pertinent individuals. They say that, doing to the recently enacted Elder Abuse Prevention & Prosecution Act, the Task Force will be redoubling its law enforcement training and community outreach efforts.

The Middle District of Tennessee has launched an Elder Justice Task Force page on its website which contains an overview of the Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative, links to elder justice resources provided by State partners in Tennessee, resources for victims seeking legal assistance, and a list of recent elder fraud and abuse matters resolved in the Middle District of Tennessee.

We applaud the work the work list they have set out for themselves 

  • Pursue nursing homes, personal care homes, skilled nursing facilities, medical providers, and other businesses that provide grossly substandard care or exploit programs that provide healthcare to seniors, such as Medicare;
  • Investigate and prosecute financial scams targeting or disproportionately impacting seniors;
  • Promote greater coordination with state and local partners to combat elder abuse;

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 To assist in raising awareness of elder abuse, the First Judicial Circuit Victim Advocate Program, along with the Prosecuting Attorney offices of Scotland, Schuyler, and Clark County hosted an Elder Exploitation/ Community Awareness Seminar at the Memphis Fire Department. The seminar speakers are Todd Hurt, Manager, Vulnerable Citizens Service, Missouri Secretary of State Office, and Kathryn S. Sapp, Bureau Chief, Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

We hope other communities will follow suit.

A BIG EARN PROJECT SHOUT-OUT to the First Judicial Circuit Victim Advocate Program and the Prosecuting Attorney offices of Scotland, Schuyler, and Clark County. They have EARNed it.

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When Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen took office in September 2014, there was no elder abuse unit in East Tennessee, or the rest of the state.

Allen wanted to change that.

"Elders are abused in our society just like children. They are not able to take care of themselves," Allen said. "If you are abusing an elder in our community, we will come after you. We are very aware of what is going on out there and we have upped our game."

Since the unit was established, the number of reported cases it investigated in Knox County has increased significantly year after year. In 2015, 750 cases were investigated. In 2016, the number rose to 950. In 2017, the number hit 1,150.

“We took those cases and were able to prosecute, over that amount of time, just shy of 300 cases," Allen said. "The fact that we have had enough proof to charge 300 of those cases in the past 3 years is very telling, that we are not doing the best job taking care of our elder adults."

Most of the cases dealt with financial abuse but they frequently lead authorities to other crimes.

"When we find an elder who is being financially abused, they are also typically being physically abused or neglected," Allen said.

Morristown police found nine residents at the Southern Care Group Home, which is not licensed by the state, living without heat for several days. The owner is facing neglect charges.

"Facilities that provide actual care for seniors should always be licensed through the State of Tennessee," said Susan Long, director of the Knoxville-Knox County CAC Office On Aging. "When a facility is providing hands on services like bathing, dressing, shaving, giving medicines, then they do require a license."

The Knoxville-Knox County CAC Office On Aging publishes a Senior Services Directory  https://www.facebook.com/knox.OOA/, which outlines and helps with everything from choosing a living facility to patients' rights.

They urge people searching for a home for their loved ones to ask questions like, 'does the facility conduct background checks?' and 'has the license ever been revoked?'

The state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse has an online database where you can search to see if a facility is licensed:        https://mh.tn.gov/Licensure/Inquiry.aspx?RPT=TDMHSAS%20License%20Inquiry

If you know of elder abuse taking place, authorities ask you report it immediately.

You can contact Adult Protective Services, the District Attorney's Office, or local law enforcement.

A BIG EARN SHOUT-OUT TO District Attorney General Charme Allen. He has EARNed it.

 

TEXAS

  • In September 2017, Mark Rodriguez and Richard Stevens were indicted on felony charges of theft of the elderly ranging from $150 to $300,000 and 13 counts of exploitation of the elderly.

Rodriguez, who had already spent 20 years in prison for the part he played in the murder of his sister-in-law in 1992, was charged as a repeat felon.  

The theft of the elderly charge is a first-degree felony and punishable by 5 to 99 years in prison so the two abusers could go to prison for life.

Dist. Atty. Nicolas LaHood, who has expanded the work of the Elder Fraud Unit, a team of prosecutors who specialize in handling cases of financial abuse of older citizens of Bexar County and to whom this case was given, was quoted as saying he hates criminals who take advantage of the elderly just as much as he hates murderers.

  • As of November, he had identified at least 119 victims and he is reaching out to the community with prevention measures in hopes of lessening the instances of senior fraud.

 

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  • New house bill number 3921 went into effect as of September 1, 2017
  • This bill gives Texas bankers and financial institutions more flexibility to protect the elderly and disabled from exploitation. It permits them to stop what they believed to be questionable transactions and report the potential fraud to the authorities for additional investigation.
  • Banks, Credit Unions and other financial institutions previously had the ability to halt transactions if there was questionable activity but often it required freezing an entire account. In addition, they also did not have authority to notify a third-party about an out-of-the-ordinary check withdrawal of cash.  Now, they may place up to a 10 day hold on specific requests for payment similar to what credit card companies do. The payment can be extended for up to 30 days.

 

This law is passing, little by little, all over the country. The Silver Standard intends to publish an opinion piece in the July/August issue. For the moment we will just say we think it is an ill thought out quick fix - a very bad idea!

 

VIRGINIA

Figures show that a task force created to crack down on crimes targeting the elderly in Wise County, is having a positive effect. The task force brings in community stakeholders every month to review and they say the increased number of referrals has led to additional prosecutions in the county.

"These aren't cases. These aren't a case number on a sheet of paper in a file. These are real people's lives," said Wise County Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp who headed up the task force last summer. His team has 20 active cases of elder abuse, including severe cases involving charges of attempted murder and assault and battery. "We've had a drastic increase in the number of referrals to law enforcement in elder abuse cases that has translated into a drastic increase in the number of prosecutions," Slemp said.

According to Wise County Adult Protective Services Supervisor Jessica Roberts, from 2016 to 2017, there was about a 15.5% increase in the number of cases reported related to adult abuse, neglect, and exploitation - 75% of the victims were 60 and older and they saw an increase in financial exploitation of seniors."July 1, 2017, a new law went into effect that we have to report every case of financial exploitation to law enforcement. Prior to that, the law was that we reported cases of financial exploitation that were $50,000 or more to law enforcement," Roberts said.

The task force also looks for services and resources for the victims.An annual review says the number of reports of financially exploited Virginians increased by motre than 20% in 2017 compaired to 2016

According to the release, local departments of social services received more than 27,000 reports last year, of which 55 percent were substantiated by investigation. Financial exploitation saw the highest increase, with 11 percent or almost 1,400 substantiated reports.The review found that the total number of allegations increased 15% from the previous year and the number of substantiated reports went up by 12%.

"This increase suggests that people know more about the signs of adult abuse and call adult protective services when they are concerned about the welfare of a family member, neighbor or friend," said Paige McCleary, the director of the APS Division at the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.The department report in 2016 said the cost to elderly and vulnerable Virginians was at least $28.2 million. However, it could be as much as $1 billion because many cases are not reported

."Our funding to provide critical help to adult victims is so limited.... If the reports continue to climb, Virginia's APS system will be overwhelmed and unable to provide the amount of help that is needed."Ms. McCleary also says she expects the numbers to continue to rise in part because of a law that took effect in July that requires all reports of financial exploitation be reported immediately to local law enforcement agencies.

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  • In March, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring filed a complaint in the Circuit Court for City of Hampton alleging violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act (“VCPA”) (“misrepresenting that goods or services have certain quantities, characteristics, ingredients, uses, or benefits” and “using any other deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, or misrepresentation in connection with a consumer transaction”) related to an illegal “pension sale” plan that deceived over 600 Virginia citizens, particularly targeting older veterans.  The complaint alleges Future Income Payments LLC, among others, engaged in a predatory loan scheme by concealing loans as sales through deceptive tactics such as billing as a buyer rather than a lender and relabeling common loan terms with sales terminology.  The loans allegedly had interest rates of up to 183%, in one instance requiring a veteran to pay $40,920 over the course of five years for a $5,500 loan.

 

VERMONT

Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan has announced that his office will be undertaking a statewide listening tour to engage older Vermonters about their most pressing concerns.

Currently, over one-third of Vermonters are 55 and older.

To better understand and respond to the most urgent concerns of older Vermonters, Donovan has asked representatives from his Human Service, Public Protection and Criminal divisions to visit each of Vermont’s 14 counties this April and May to explore the same two questions:

1.      What are older Vermonters’ greatest vulnerabilities and needs?

2.      How can Vermont’s systems for elder support and protection be improved?

 “Our goal is simple,” Attorney General Donovan said. “We want to understand                                the most pressing challenges of our state’s aging population, particularly those who are most vulnerable.” It’s our responsibility to protect and support older Vermonters. Based on what we learn and the relationships we form and strengthen in the process, our office will seek to refresh and refine its elder protection efforts.”

As far as elder abuse is concerned, the governor does not even have a single person leave heir offices—just get behind amendments to

Financial Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults

13 V.S.A. § 1380

It is a terrible law—what about the 80 year old widow, who is every bit as sharp as her 30 year old granddaughter but, because her husband always took care of finances and investments gets duped by a slick insurance or stock salesman. Why does the law not protect her.

Just pick and age—any age—and replace that word vulnerable with that age. So that anyone who steals from a person of tat age or older, is guilty of financial elder abuse.

 

WEST VIRGINIA

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virgina, which ranks second to only Florida in percentage of senior citizens, has announced the formation of an elder abuse litigation and prevention unit including a dedicated team of veteran civil prosecutors.

The Attorney General is quoted as saying “Senior citizens represent the best of what West Virginia has to offer…. Unfortunately, all too often con artists, deceptive businessmen, caretakers and even family members take advantage of our elderly friends….such conduct cannot be tolerated.”

This will bring a collaboration between the state’s Bureau of Senior Services, financial institutions, community groups, local senior citizen organizations and other entities across West Virginia who will also give presentations and distribute vital elder abuse educational materials to West Virginia citizens. 

Litigation brought by the unit will focus upon enforcing a wide variety of laws to protect seniors from the consumer crimes they frequently fall victim to.  They will also deal with civil prosecution of unfair debt collection, denial of service, deceptive business practices, and overcharging incidents. They say they will also will also assist seniors with funeral contracts, powers of attorney and learning how to detect the signs of a potential abuse risks.

They say the attorneys will work with the state’s Adult Protective Services in filing petitions for guardianship, conservatorship and attachment to ensure a trusted individual oversees the senior’s financial and non-financial affairs, as well as clear the path for emergency medical care.

The state Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification, is responsible for the protection of senior citizens in nursing homes by supporting efforts to revoke the certification of any nurse assistant who is accused of abuse and/or neglect.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources unit is similarly responsible to support efforts to punish abusive and neglectful health service workers in hospitals.

 “We succeed in fighting back against these bad actors by harnessing all of our resources to protect the most vulnerable among us,” Morrisey said. “Our formation of this unit will do just that.”

The attorney general chose to use the nationwide initiative, Money Smart week—established to inform consumers about financial literacy, to hold various events across the state to help West Virginian’s recognize the warning signs of financial exploitation.

He said “Money-Smart Week allows us to provide important information to consumers of all ages, however the vulnerability of our senior citizen population demands specific attention”

Education is a large element in AG Morrisey’s new elder abuse litigation and prevention unit.

The EARN Project hopes this oversight includes a watchful eye on guardian’s activities, charges and expenditures.

Senior citizens in need of the unit’s assistance can use the  Attorney General’s senior services and elder abuse hotline…call 304-558-1155 or e-mail HelpForSeniors@wvago.gov.or write to P.O. Box 1789, Charleston, WV 25326

    A BIG EARN SHOUT-OUT TO Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. He has EARNed it.                                                                 

WISCONSIN

On April 11, Attorney General Brad Schimel held the third meeting of the Attorney General's Task Force on Elder Abuse."The statistics are sobering. One in nine seniors have reported being abused, neglected or exploited in the last twelve months, but we also know that elder abuse is drastically underreported……..The task force on elder abuse is working to not only raise awareness about the prevalence of elder abuse, but to provide solutions for protecting Wisconsin's growing senior population from abuse and exploitation, and empower senior citizens and their family members to take action if abuse is occurring." he said.

"Victims of elder abuse do not need to be low income to qualify for our Elder Rights Project. There's an important reason for that: We have learned through experience that elder abuse does not discriminate. It happens to people with financial resources, and those who are poor," said Legal Action of Wisconsin Executive Director David Pifer. "Civil legal aid is not only important for pursuing civil legal claims against abusers. It is a crucial component of helping a senior stabilize their life, and get their financial, emotional, and physical health back on track."

The function of Task Force, established in August of 2017, is to assemble resources and knowledge of a multi-disciplinary team of professionals to study the impact of elder abuse in Wisconsin and to assess methods to improve protetive measures for Wisconsin’s senior population.

They say that, in addition to developing strategies to address barriers in investigations and prosecutions of elder abuse, the task force will strengthen consumer protection for seniors and create recommendations for improved cross-system communications.

In addition to the task force's work, Attorney General Schimel has provided public safety tools for seniors and their loved ones, expanded Wisconsin’s Dose of Reality campaign, a statewide prevention campaign designed to raise awareness about prescription drug abuse and the part they play in the opioid epidemic, launched a radio ad campaign to raise awareness about elder abuse encouraging citizens to report senior abuse at Medicaid-funded or other senior care facilities. He also started "Safe Seniors Camera Program" a new pilot project in Brown, Outagamie, and Winnebago counties that allows Wisconsin residents, who suspect a caregiver is abusing their loved one, to use a covert camera to surveille anyone they believe is being harmed by a caregiver in their residence.

A BIG EARN Project shout out to Attorney General Schimel. He has EARNed it.