Archive for August, 2010

Huguette Clark (104-Year-Old Heiress) Finances Under Probe

August 27, 2010

A 104-year-old heiress to a Montana copper mining fortune — now living in a New York hospital room — is at the center of a criminal investigation into her fortune and welfare, two people familiar with the probe told The Associated Press.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office is looking into how Huguette Clark is being cared for and how her finances are being handled, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the probe.

Clark has been living in hospitals since leaving her luxury co-op overlooking Central Park more than 20 years ago, according to building staff who saw her leave in an ambulance.

Full Article and Source:
Finances of 104-Year-Old Heiress at Center of Probe

Appeal Filed in Smoron Case

August 27, 2010

The attorney for Samuel Manzo, an heir to the Smoron farm property, has filed an appeal against a New Britain probate judge’s ruling that essentially gave Smoron’s land and cash assets to three local churches.

Manzo’s attorney Barry Pontolillo, filed the appeal this week in New Britain Superior Court.

The complaint states that Probate Judge Walter Clebowicz’s July 20 decision was inconsistent with Southington Probate Judge Bryan Meccariello’s order to reconsider and rehear the trust application.

Meccariello recused himself from the Smoron case in February after Manzo filed a complaint with the Council on Probate Judicial Conduct.

Full Article and Source:
Manzo Files Appeal Over Farm Decision

See Also:
Smoron Caretaker Sues Developer Over Eviction

Tasered Elderly, Disabled Woman Sues

August 27, 2010

An elderly, disabled woman who was incapacitated and burned by a police officer’s stun gun has filed a lawsuit against the city of El Reno, Oklahoma, as well as against several of its police officers.

Lona M. Varner, now 87, and her grandson, Lonnie D. Tinsley, filed the federal lawsuit in Oklahoma City. In it, they allege that their civil rights were violated, and that the city has failed to adequately train and discipline its officers.

The incident occurred on December 22, 2009. Tinsley had called 911, requesting a paramedic to check on his grandmother, whom he believed may have tried to commit suicide. When police arrived, Varner was brandishing a kitchen knife from her hospital-style bed. According to the police report filed by Officer Thomas Duran, he “tried talking to Varner and calm her down but nothing would work.”

When other officers entered the room, Duran says, Varner took “a more aggressive posture on the bed,” raising the knife above her head and saying, “If you come any closer, you’re getting the knife.” Duran was afraid that she would injure someone, so he attempted to stun her using the Taser. Only one of the prongs made contact, however, so he told a fellow officer that his Taser was not functioning properly.

Officer Joseph Sandberg then deployed his Taser, rendering Varner incapacitated enough that the officers were able to remove the knife from her hand. Varner suffers from numerous health problems, according to her attorney, including using oxygen and an electric cart to get around, and being blind in one eye.

Full Article and Source:
Grandmother Sues Police Department,Officers Affer Being Tasered

Update on Britney Spears Conservatorship

August 27, 2010

Back in February of 2008, a conservatorship was created for Britney Spears. One was created for “her person” and one for “her finances.” While there are no signs of the conservatorship ending, due to the conservators not filing a petition to end it, Britney herself can ask the judge to end the conservatorship. Before a judge could release her from the conservatorship, he or she would have to decide if Britney is capable of making decisions for herself and her kids.

By all indications, if Britney were to ask the judge to end the conservatorship, they would take it seriously and re-evaluate it.

Full Article and Source:
Update on Britney Spears Conservatorship

See Also:
Britney Spears Conservatorship Continues

Observations of Danny Tate’s 8/20/10 Hearing

August 26, 2010

A Friday hearing once again brought the conservatorship of Nashville musician Danny Tate to the docket of Judge Randy Kennedy’s Davidson County probate court. The proceeding addressing Danny Tate’s case was enlightening as ever, but prior to his case being called, observing the interaction of Judge Kennedy and the attorneys before him reaffirmed impressions from previous visits to this and other courts of the disjointed relationship between members of the legal industry and the industry outsiders they theoretically serve.

Despite courts being a taxpayer-funded entity supporting a theoretical pursuit of justice, Friday’s court schedule illustrated how the court system is a workplace seemingly more attuned to the pursuit of income-generating employment endeavors. Within this environment, legal practitioners oversee the creation, advancement or termination of legal cases. Free markets and conditions that support healthy business enterprises are always a desirable goal. The legal industry’s “closed shop” protectionist attitudes along with ever changing, unpredictable interpretations of the law, procedures or rules are why the general public views the legal system with skepticism and those with direct experience may come closer to views bordering on complete contempt.

Judge Kennedy’s Friday sessions evidently provide a legal bureaucracy catch-up opportunity. They additionally appear to serve as a probate payday of sorts as attorneys line up to submit to the court legal fee approval requests for services rendered in estate cases. Administrative ease and casualness of process in executing major actions affecting people’s property and long-term welfare is something to watch and fear. While distinguishing the good guys from the bad isn’t something a court observer can necessarily determine, it’s easy to see that process and/or positioning often appear to outweigh any discussions of right and/or wrong.

Entering the courtroom to a view of lawyers amassed and awaiting time with Judge Kennedy is reminiscent of The Godfather scene in which people lined up for an audience with Don Vito Corleone in hopes the Mafia boss would grant a favor or help fix a problem. A kiss to his ring signaled respect and all involved had a tacit understanding that favors received would ultimately prompt future favors being returned. A significant degree of metaphoric ring-kissing indeed seemed the practice at Friday’s court session.

Full Article and Source:
Danny Tate’s Latest Hearing Provides ‘Inside Courts’ Teachable Moment

See Also:

Danny Tate Hearing

Facebook: Justice for Danny Tate

At Least 16 Georgia Judges Under Suspicion for Misconduct Since 2008

August 26, 2010

Since early 2008, at least 16 Georgia judges have resigned or been removed from office either under a cloud of suspicion or after being publicly accused of misconduct. Among them are:

● Clinch County Superior Court Judge Brooks Blitch, who resigned after being accused of overseeing illegal payments to employees and ordering the early release of inmates.

● Woodstock and Marietta municipal Judge Diane Busch, who resigned after being charged with furnishing alcohol to teenagers, stemming from a Christmas party at her home.

● Fayette County Superior Court Judge Johnnie Caldwell, who resigned after being accused of making rude, sexually suggestive comments to an attorney.

● Twiggs County Probate Judge Kenneth Fowler, who was removed for requiring criminal defendants to prove their innocence and having defendants “buy out” of their community service by making deposits into a bank account he controlled.

Full Article and Source:
List of Judges

Financial Abuse of the Elderly: A Detective’s Case Files of Exploitation Crimes

August 25, 2010

I’ve recently finished reading this excellent book describing how the elderly become victims of financial abuse. The author, Joe Roubicek, was a detective in the Fort Lauderdale Police Department for many years, and he investigated over 1000 cases of exploitation of the elderly during that period on the police force. The book describes some of the cases he investigated and discusses the shortcomings of state laws protecting the elderly from financial abuse.

Roubicek clarifies the differences between exploitation of the elderly and fraud. Exploitation occurs when someone takes advantage of a disabled elderly person to deprive that person of his or her assets. For example, an in-home caregiver might take advantage of her employer’s memory deficits to ask for grocery money five times in a single day. Fraud occurs when a “false and deceptive statement of fact induces the victim to give up a valuable item that he or she owns.” Fraud laws are written under the assumption that the victim has the mental capacity to weigh information and make decisions. For example, if a roofing contractor takes a deposit for work on a house with quality materials and workmanship and returns to do the job with defective materials, then fraud may have occurred.

Unfortunately, financial elder abuse often occurs in the gray area between the fraud and the exploitation statutes.

Full Article and Source:
Elder Champions

See Also:

Former Financial Advisor Sentenced to 3 Years

August 25, 2010

Federal authorities say a former North Carolina financial adviser has been sentenced to three years in prison for taking millions from an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease.

U.S. Attorney George Holding announced Wednesday that 66-year-old Harold Blondeau of Raleigh was also ordered to pay nearly $425,700 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service, the victim, her trusts, and the charity founded with her money.

Blondeau pleaded guilty last year to investment adviser fraud and tax fraud, for not reporting or paying taxes on the illegal income. He admitted taking nearly $3 million from a then-83-year-old Raleigh woman.

Full Article and Source:
Raleigh Man Receives 3 Years for Bilking Elderly Woman

Elderly Couple Bilked Out of $1.5 Million by Son and Others

August 25, 2010

The son of an elderly Davis couple and two others have pleaded no contest to stealing $1.5 million from the couple, according to the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office.

The son, whose name was not made public in order to protect the victims, the son’s ex-wife Jennifer Haskell, and a second man, Marlo Compton, used several ploys to steal the victims’ life savings, said chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven.

The defendants’ pleas to multiple theft charges include prison terms and restitution to the victims. The son, Haskell, and Compton were scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 1 in Yolo County Superior Court.

Full Article and Source:
Davis Couple Bilked by Son, Others Out of $1.5 Million, Prosecutors Say

Minnesota: Weak Rules Govern Guardians

August 24, 2010

Social workers in Aitkin County had a problem: They needed someone to make decisions for three mentally impaired people who could no longer manage their own affairs. So in 2003, the county made a public appeal in the local newspaper.

Paul and Frances Peterson, who had no experience as guardians or conservators, offered their services. What followed was a failure of the state’s guardianship system that the county is still untangling seven years later.

Altogether, Aitkin County asked the Petersons to manage the affairs of five individuals, including three men with six-figure bank balances. After one of their wards died, the Petersons continued to write checks on his account, violating a court order and state law. The county had to give another wealthy ward $100 for food because the Petersons did not give him any of his money.

A district judge, who found numerous accounting problems, terminated their oversight in 2008 and subsequently ordered the Petersons to give back half of the $80,500 they paid themselves over five years. But the judge’s order is on hold because an appeals court said there were no clear guidelines on how much the Petersons could charge for their work.

To family members and advocates, the inability of the courts to hold the Petersons accountable shows how the state needs new tools to crack down on poorly performing guardians and conservators, who are unlicensed and virtually unregulated in Minnesota.

“There has to be a form of professional standards, regulatory oversight or sanctioning ability,” said Roberta Opheim, the state mental health ombudsman. “To me, it’s about people abusing their power and authority granted to them for a humane purpose.”

Opheim said there’s no limit on how many wards a guardian can oversee. Some guardians have as many as 40 people under their control, she said.

Peterson blamed complaints on hostile social workers, difficult family members and the erratic behavior of one ward. He said he and his wife’s big mistake was letting “ourselves get talked into doing it in the first place.”

William Hohenauer, a former ward who spent four years trying to get his money back, accused the Petersons of raiding his accounts. “They went in and took what they wanted for themselves,” he said. “The court let them get away with this.”

On June 17, six days after his interview with the Star Tribune, Hohenauer died of cancer. He was still waiting for his money.

Full Article and Source:
Weak Rules Govern Guardians