Archive for October, 2009

Sweet Freedom!

October 31, 2009

A judge gave disabled dentist Monica Yepez a reason to let out a big sigh of relief Thursday.

Probate Judge Eduardo Gamboa released Yepez from her state-mandated guardianship. He ordered her appointed guardian, El Paso lawyer Hector Phillips, to transfer her property back to her within 45 days. Phillips and Yepez are scheduled to meet today to take inventory of her jewelry.

“I wish you luck, and please watch your spending so you can have some cushion for your needs in the future,” Gamboa told Yepez.

Gamboa also ordered Phillips to write a $200 check to accountant Karen Carson to complete Yepez’s 2007 and 2008 tax returns, which were never filed. Gamboa appointed Carson in August to audit Yepez’s estate.

Nervous before the hearing, Yepez left court with her relentless smile noticeably bigger.

“I’m satisfied,” she said. “Now that I got my life back, I plan on taking advantage of it. It’s exactly what I wanted.”

But Yepez’s family and friends worried that the court ruling was just the first step in getting her life back in order.

In 2007, her estate was valued at $1.1 million. Her three vehicles, worth a combined $140,000, were sold, as were the assets of her dental practice. The proceeds from those sales have yet to be accounted for.

Yepez’s father, Alonso Yepez, said he worried that her belongings and the money would never be found.

“There’s still a lot of things missing, but that’s all we wanted, just to get her off the guardianship. It was draining her,” Alonso Yepez said.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Releases Disabled Dentist From State-Ordered Guardianship

See Also:
Woman Wants Answers

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Daniel Gross Case: Back in the News

October 31, 2009

In the case of a New York man who was wrongfully placed in a nursing home for 10 months against his will, the 2nd Circuit affirmed dismissal of the man’s claims against the probate judge, the nursing home and state officials, but asked the Connecticut Supreme Court whether quasi-judicial immunity extends to court-appointed conservators and attorneys.

In 2005, octogenarian Daniel Gross had a conservatorship imposed on him and was kept in a nursing home until a Superior Court judge in Connecticut ordered him released, citing “a terrible miscarriage of justice.”

Gross sued probate Judge Thomas P. Brunnock, court-appointed attorney Jonathan Newman, conservator Kathleen Donovan, Grove Manor Nursing Home, Gov. M. Jodi Rell and state ombudsman Maggie Ewald.

Gross said the defendants wrongfully kept him at Grove Manor, where he lived with a violent roommate who attacked him, and ignored his complaints about the mistreatment.

The defendants all asserted absolute or quasi-immunity, and U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant dismissed the complaint. She dismissed the claims against state officials for procedural reasons, but cited immunity for the rest.

“We affirm the dismissal of claims against the state officials, the tort claims against the nursing home, and the finding of absolute judicial immunity as to the judge,” the New York-based appeals court ruled.

However, it found Connecticut law on quasi-immunity “unclear” and certified the following questions to the state Supreme Court:

“Under Connecticut law, does absolute quasi-judicial immunity extend to conservators appointed by the Connecticut Probate Courts?

“Under Connecticut law, does absolute quasi-judicial immunity extend to attorneys appointed to represent respondents in conservatorship proceedings or to attorneys appointed to represent conservatees?” and;

“What is the role of conservators, court-appointed attorneys for conservatees, and nursing homes in the Connecticut probate court system, in light of the six factors for determining quasi-judicial immunity outlined in Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 201-02 (1985)?”

Full Article and Source:
Court Seeks Clarification in Conservatorship Case

Former Guardian Waives Hearing

October 31, 2009

A 53-year-old Hudsonville area woman accused of stealing more than $100,000 from her parents waived a probable cause hearing Thursday to preserve a plea deal that offers a lesser penalty.

Eloise Russo, the former guardian of Thomas and Ada Sherwin, is charged with embezzlement of more than $100,000. An Ottawa County Probate Court judge earlier determined a loss of $107,000, although Russo’s attorney claims the amount is much less.

She allegedly told a court-appointed attorney in Ottawa County Probate Court that she spent at least $40,000, with $10,000 as a gift to her and the balance spent gambling.

Thomas Sherwin died recently at the age of 90 while his wife, Ada, 83, is in a nursing home. Prosecutors have offered Russo a deal to plead to embezzlement of more than $20,000.

Full Article and Source:
Daughter Charged With Embezzeling More Than $100,000 From Parents Waives Hearing

See Also:
Daughter Charged With Embezzlement

Kansas State Hospital Targeted for Closure

October 31, 2009

A Kansas commission is recommending that the state close its hospital for the mentally disabled in Topeka and move more patients into group homes.

The closure would leave the state with just the Parsons State Hospital and Training Center. Officials estimate the proposals for the Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka and the Parsons hospital would save the state at least $5.7 million a year.

Full Article and Source:
Kansas Panel Backs Closing State Hospital in Topeka

Charged With Abducting Disabled Woman

October 31, 2009

Bail of $300,000 each was ordered for two Raleigh, N.C., men charged with abduction and interference with custody for allegedly taking a developmentally disabled woman they met on the Internet out of state without a guardian’s permission.

Thomas Steen, 29, and Kyle Cornelius, 37, also known as Richard Tharp, pleaded not guilty to the felony charges Monday, Oct. 26, in Miami County Common Pleas Court.

Sheriff’s Capt. Dave Duchak said the woman, who is 18 but functions mentally at a much younger age, was caught this summer talking with one of the men on the Internet and prohibited by family members with further communication with him. The family later learned she had continued communications and then left with the two who came to Ohio on Sept. 3, he said.

She later was located in North Carolina and returned to the county.

Pretrial hearings for both men are scheduled for Monday, Nov. 2. They remain in the county jail.

Full Article and Source:
Men Charged with Abducting Disabled Woman

National Silver Alert Act (S.557)

October 30, 2009

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that he is pushing legislation to create a nationwide network for locating missing adults and senior citizens with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other mental impairments. The Silver Alert Act would create a program, modeled after the AMBER Alert, which would provide federal coordination and assistance through the Department of Justice to local and state law enforcement to assist efforts to locate missing senior citizens across the country.

Schumer said today that a nationwide alert network is critical because missing adults can cross state and county lines.

Senator Schumer is sponsoring the National Silver Alert Act (S. 557), which will encourage and integrate systems throughout the United States to help identify and locate missing seniors with cognitive impairments. The bill will also authorize grants for these organizations. The bill has already passed the House of Representatives.

Full Article and Source:
Schumer Pushes for Nationwide Alert System to Locate Missing Adults With Alzheimer’s Disease; Almost 22,000 Seniors in Rochester Finger Lakes are Affected

Georgia Court Employee Accused of Theft by Taking

October 30, 2009

A court employee in Dawson County is accused of stealing thousands of dollars paid for traffic fines.

For the past few years, anyone in Dawson County who needed to pay a traffic ticket would hand over their money to probate clerk Julie Honea. Investigators said for the past several months, Honea, 51, was actually pocketing the money.

“She was a trusted employee,” said Judge Jennifer Burt.

Burt said she is still in shock. She said an internal audit found the alleged misconduct by her 10-year employee.

“Of course you learn to trust someone that’s worked for you that long,” said Burt.

Dawson County sheriff’s investigators filed theft by taking charges against Honea on Tuesday, accusing her of pocketing more than $6,400 over the past several months.

Investigators believe Honea tried to fool the system by marking the fines as suspended or waived in the computer before taking the cash.

Full Article, Video, and Source:
Court Employee Accused of Stealing Thousands Paid for Traffic Fines

Accused of Stealing More Than $560,000

October 30, 2009

A 61-year-old woman was arrested this week, accused of stealing more than $560,000 from an elderly woman by withdrawing large sums of money from the 95-year-old woman’s retirement accounts between 2006 and 2009.

The victim was introduced to the suspect, Colleen A. Averill, of Beaverton, in the late 1990s by a friend whose own financial affairs was being managed by Averill, according to court papers.

Portland Officer Deanna Wesson obtained recordings of the calls Averill made to New York Life Insurance Co. in 2006, in which Averill tried to disguise her voice as an older woman, impersonating the then-92-year-old victim to ask for a dispersal from her account.

Police found Averill paid off her daughter’s $21,484 car loan, spent hundreds of dollars at liquor stores and paid between $2,000 and $5,000 a month to American Express and other credit cards.

Now, Averill faces 64 felony counts, including multiple allegations of first-degree criminal mistreatment, first-degree aggravated theft, first-degree forgery and falsifying business records.

Full Article and Source:
Woman Accused of Bilking 95-Year-Old of More Than $560,000

Former Real Estate Agent Facing Prison Time

October 30, 2009

A 46-year-old former real estate agent is facing prison time after pleading guilty to improperly selling the home of an elderly Tucson resident and keeping the profit.

Ammar Dean Halloum was working as a licensed real estate agent when he misrepresented himself and obtained the title of a Gilbert home from a Tucson dementia patient, according to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

Halloum recently pleaded guilty to one count of theft/financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and one count of fraudulent schemes and artifices, both felonies, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

Halloum also agreed to pay over $200,000 in restitution to the victim and over $30,000 to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution costs.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard Fields will sentence Halloum Dec. 1.

Full Article and Source:
Real Estate Agent Admits Defrauding Elderly Tuscan Resident

AARP Under Scrutiny

October 29, 2009

The nation’s preeminent seniors group, AARP, has put the weight of its 40 million members behind health-care reform, saying many of the proposals will lower costs and increase the quality of care for older Americans.

The group and its subsidiaries collected more than $650 million in royalties and other fees last year from the sale of insurance policies, credit cards and other products that carry the AARP name, accounting for the majority of its $1.14 billion in revenue, according to federal tax records. It does not directly sell insurance policies but lends its name to plans in exchange for a tax-exempt cut of the premiums.

The organization, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, also heavily markets the policies on its Web site, in mailings to its members and through ubiquitous advertising targeted at seniors.

The group’s dual role as an insurance reformer and a broker has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks from congressional Republicans, who accuse it of having a conflict of interest in taking sides in the fierce debate over health insurance. Three House Republicans sent a letter to AARP on Monday complaining that the group was putting its “political self-interests” ahead of seniors.

Full Article and Source:
AARP: Reform Advocate and Insurance Salesman