Archive for March, 2013

Missouri Supreme Court Suspends Associate Circuit Judge Barbara Peebles for Six Months Without Pay

March 31, 2013

A St. Louis judge has been suspended without pay for six months, according to a ruling issued Friday by the Missouri Supreme Court.

The unpaid suspension of Associate Circuit Judge Barbara Peebles begins Monday. She has been suspended with pay since August, when the Missouri Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline voted 5-1 to recommend her removal. The sixth member favored a six-month suspension.

The one-page order, issued by Chief Justice Richard B. Teitelman, said that the court found that Peebles “engaged in misconduct” but does not go into specifics.

The state commission had cited a series of reasons, including her abdication of duties to a clerk while on vacation in China and her destruction of a court document that complained about the clerk’s conduct.

She also was cited for starting court late, talking to a newspaper reporter about a pending case and a lack of credibility regarding the investigation.

Courthouse rumors in St. Louis had long speculated that the court would decline to follow the commission’s recommendation to remove Peebles, and that the high court would time its announcement for a day when the legislature was out of session to minimize any repercussions there.

Friday was Good Friday.

Full Article and Source:
Mo. Supreme Court Suspends St. Louis Judge for Six Months Without Pay

See Also:
Judge Barbara Peebles Response

Judicial Commission’s Report on Judge Barbara Peebles

The Forgotten Ones: Compassion for the Elderly

March 31, 2013

Walk into any nursing home today, and you’ll see them: The aging lonely. They are easily recognizable. Look for the sadness on their faces, the pain in their eyes. With a television on for company, these men and women sit alone in their rooms. Their shelves are bare, their bulletin boards void of pictures, cards, or any memento denoting love from the outside. Those sad eyes may even hold a twinge of bitterness, asking, “Why am I still here with no one to love me?”
~ by Karrie Osborn

What are we waiting for? The time to help is now. ♥

Couple Charged With Exploitation of Elderly Could Face More Charges

March 30, 2013

A Jonesborough husband and wife charged with bilking an elderly couple out of $150,000 in cash could face additional theft charges with new information prosecutors learned after their arrest, an attorney said Thursday.
Jama Curtis, 39, and Tony Curtis, 40, are charged with theft over $60,000, theft over $10,000 and willful exploitation of an adult. They were in court Thursday for a bond reduction hearing and so Judge Robert Cupp could rule on the state’s motion to extend a restraining order to keep the Curtises away from the victim’s money and property.

Jama Curtis was the designated caregiver for the victims, a non-married couple, Ben A. Roberts, 85, and Billie Godwin, 82, according to Assistant District Attorney General Erin McArdle.
She’s accused of taking around $47,000 from Roberts’ account with daily ATM withdrawals up to $1,000 at various locations in Jonesborough and Johnson City, writing checks from the account to herself and her husband’s business for work that was never authorized or completed.

McArdle said in a restraining order that approximately $84,943.51 was made out in checks to the Curtises.

Full Article and Source:
Couple Charged With Exploitation of Elderly Could Face More Charges

See Also:
TN Couple Reportedly Exploited Elderly Residents

Certified Financial Board of Standards (CFB) Releases Guide for Protecting Older Americans From Financial Abuse

March 30, 2013

Older Americans are too often victims of financial fraud and abuse. Recognizing this unfortunate trend, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. today released a free guide, Financial Self-Defense for Seniors, which is informed by recent survey data on senior financial exploitation, to help older Americans and their families identify the warning signs of financial abuse and to better protect themselves and their loved ones.

“CFP Board remains deeply concerned about incidents of consumers – particularly senior citizens – being misled by those claiming to be trusted financial professionals,” said CFP Board CEO Kevin R. Keller , CAE. “This guide to financial self-defense will help protect seniors from abusive, fraudulent and unethical financial practices.”

Financial Self-Defense for Seniors was written by CFP Board Consumer Advocate Eleanor Blayney, CFP®. It describes 10 “Red Flags” – common situations in which older Americans are vulnerable to financial abuse – and provides warning signs of financial abuse; real-life situations in which seniors are often taken advantage of; and advice for guarding against such abuse.

The guide draws upon CFP Board’s 2012 Senior Financial Exploitation Survey of more than 2,600 CFP® professionals, which found that more than half had personally worked with an older client who had been subject to unfair, deceptive or abusive financial practices in the delivery of financial advice or the sale of financial products. Participating CFP® professionals estimated that only five percent of senior citizens actually report such financial abuse.

The survey also found that CFP® professionals were aware of a variety of abusive practices in the delivery of financial advice or the sale of financial products, including some practices that could violate state and federal regulations:

•Nearly three-quarters (73%) were aware of older investors who have been invited to “free meal” seminars that were actually sales pitches;
•58% were aware of older investors who have received unsolicited pitches for financial products or services; •Nearly three-quarters (74%) of CFP® professionals were aware of older investors who have been offered unsuitable financial products; and
•58% were aware of older investors who have been subject to omission of material facts about financial products.

“CFP Board wants to shine a bright light on those who seek to abuse older Americans so that all seniors and their families can defend themselves against scammers,” Blayney said. “Seniors have contributed so much to our families, communities and our country. We owe them our thanks, but also our protection, so that they may live out their remaining years in financial security.”

Financial Self-Defense for Seniors is part of CFP Board’s series of financial self-defense guides, including the Consumer Guide to Financial Self-Defense, released in 2010. The U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) will include the guide in its Fall 2013 Consumer Information Catalog. The public can access an online version by visiting http://www.cfp.net/financial-self-defense-for-seniors or requesting a hard copy by sending an email to mail@CFPBoard.org or calling 800-487-1497.

Full Press Release and Source:
CFP Board Releases Guide for Protecting Older Americans From Financial Abuse

See Also:
Financial Self Defense for Seniors

Britney Spears Conservatorship Judge Grants Attorney’s Request to Move Singer’s Assets into Different Investment Strategy

March 30, 2013

Britney Spears seems to have gotten her personal life back on track after finding romance with new beau David Lucado following her defunct engagement to ex-fiancé  Jason Trawick.

Now, her legal team is hoping to get the pop star’s business affairs in order as well.

The “Scream & Shout” singer’s conservatorship attorneys were in court Friday morning to ask a judge for authority to modify the investment allocation strategy of Spears’ assets—the latest development in a seemingly never-emdomg string of court hearings since her conservatorship was established in the aftermath of her notorious 2008 mental-health crisis and subsequent public meltdown.

Source:
Britney Spears Conservatorship Judge Grants Attorney’s Request to Move Singer’s Assets into Different Investment Strategy

Editorial: NEED FOR OVERSIGHT IN CONSERVATORSHIP SYSTEM

March 29, 2013

When my mother, Patricia C. Rosen, was put under conservatorship, I discovered the need for reform and public oversight.

For example, she was said to have dementia by professional conservators, attorneys and others profiting off her estate. The neuropsychological evaluator my mom hired by saving her scant allowance, as well as her doctor of 25 years, both found her competent but were ignored. Then the professional conservator resigned due to my “interference”, and my mom was placed in the hands of the Public Guardian, Harry Hagan, whose office found her to be competent.  The Public Guardian needed its funds for those truly in need, so terminated the conservatorship that had been going on for over five years.  Unlike the profit-making network, there was no incentive to keep her under conservatorship. Conservatorship is a huge cash cow. Is there a conflict of interest here?

Also, conservators are supposed to justify their fees to the court.

In my mother’s case, when the conservator resigned, there never was a final accounting submitted to the court. $83,000 of my mother’s money was used up with absolutely no court oversight. I had wanted to contest many of the fees, as I felt the conservator had done wrongdoing, but was deprived of my right to do so. The judge at the time didn’t try to stop this transgression of due process; in fact, he, along with the attorneys profiting off the estate, signed a court order allowing the conservator to be paid with no explanation to the court. Many other older persons are having their rights violated in this court system.  Oversight is important, the public needs to be watching.  One can help elders by being a watchdog and attending the probate court in Dept. 5 of the old courthouse building Thursdays at 9 am. Trouble is one can’t hear what’s going on at these “public” hearings. Other courtrooms have microphones. At a recent hearing a man in the audience informed Judge Stern that the public couldn’t hear, but was completely ignored. I don’t think the profit-making network wants us to know what’s going on.

To find out more about how elders are abused by conservators go to the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA) website at stopguardianabuse.org

~Bryan Rosen, Monticeto

Source:
Need for Oversight in Conservatorships

How To Prevent Financial Abuse of the Elderly

March 28, 2013

Elder financial abuse is an expensive drain on the U.S. economy. A study of media reports from April to June 2010 “estimated that financial exploitation cost older adults at least $2.9 billion” that year, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office, or GAO. According to the report: “The money that older adults lose in these cases is rarely recovered, and this loss can undermine both the health of older adults and their ability to support and care for themselves.”

That often means that taxpayers end up footing the bill for housing and medical care once an exploited senior has been drained of his or her assets. In fact, the report says that in 80 cases involving Utah’s elderly, that state’s Medicaid program could pony up about $900,000 in Medicaid costs alone.

The GAO report points out that unless law enforcement, the courts and adult protective services get better at protecting the assets of older adults, this country could see a sharp increase in the amount of public dollars replacing private funds that are illegally drained from their estates. And as the senior population increases, those numbers will only continue to climb. Certified Fraud Examiner Steve Lee says that “pre-grave robbing” — which often goes unreported — is an issue frequently encountered by private investigators, specialists in elder care law and colleagues.

Tom Fields’ personal experience has led him to crusade for more effective legislation targeting elder financial abuse. “There is a clear lack of protection under current laws and legislation,” says Fields, who is from Mentor, Ohio. He believes that in addition to current law being insufficient, law enforcement often has little idea of how to handle these cases.

It’s true that police reaction to cases of elder financial abuse varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and there is little crime-specific training available to them. Many jurisdictions treat these cases as civil, rather than criminal, cases, leaving families to struggle with stopping the siphoning of an elderly person’s assets via a sluggish court system.

Full Article and Source:
How to Prevent Financial Abuse of Elderly Parents

Alleged fraudster charged with bilking elderly

March 28, 2013

A 62-year-old man accused of bilking several people out of more than $70,000 with stories ranging from his wife’s miscarriage to a legally entangled inheritance pleaded not guilty to 13 felonies.

Prosecutors say James Keeton gained the trust of the victims, ages 51 to 88, before gaining their money. He met them through the San Mateo Horseman’s Association and St. Pius Parish in Redwood City ultimately sought personal loans between $3,000 and $23,650. He reportedly claimed his wife had recently miscarried twins and their home was at risk of foreclosure but that that they could repay the money with a pending large inheritance tied up in litigation in New York. Keeton took the loans but never repaid the money, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

The total amount taken from all the alleged victims is $73,650.

Keeton pleaded not guilty to seven counts of fraud and six counts of elder abuse. He did not waive his right to a speedy trial and a preliminary hearing was set for March 29.

Bail was set at $750,000 with the order that any bond posted be examined to ensure it does not include any of the allegedly defrauded funds. He remains in custody and returns to court March 27 for a review conference.

Full Article & Source:
Alleged fraudster charged with bilking elderly

Justice at Last for Disinherited Caretaker, Sam Manzo!

March 27, 2013

It has taken too long for justice to prevail — 3 1/2 years.

The arc of history is finally bending toward justice in the case of Sam Manzo and the valuable but ramshackle farm he stands to inherit in Southington. 

This past week, a Superior Court judge hearing Mr. Manzo’s appeal of a Southington probate court order removed what is probably the last significant roadblock between Mr. Manzo and his rightful inheritance.

Now the case goes to Hartford Probate Judge Robert Killian to resolve the few remaining questions. Surely the erudite, experienced Judge Killian can wrap up the case — which has been an ugly sore on the probate system — with dispatch.

The farm was the property of Josephine Smoron, who died at 92 on June 20, 2009. Ms. Smoron wanted Mr. Manzo, her longtime caretaker, to have the farm — and especially her beloved cows. She said so, specifically, in two wills.

But while Ms. Smoron lay dying in a nursing home, a probate judge who would later be censured by the Council on Probate Judicial Conduct and a lawyer who was castigated by the Statewide Grievance Committee ignored the old lady’s wishes and sought to hustle Mr. Manzo out of his eventual inheritance.

The probate judge, Bryan Meccariello, expressed doubts about Mr. Manzo’s ability to take care of Ms. Smoron as she declined and wondered whether the caretaker was putting his own interests first. He terminated Mr. Manzo’s conservatorship of Ms. Smoron.

Mr. Meccariello then allowed the lawyer, John Nugent, who became Ms. Smoron’s conservator, to set up two trusts, transfer her assets into them and name others to be the beneficiaries — putting the farm beyond Mr. Manzo’s reach. Mr. Nugent wanted the Smoron farm sold to a developer.

It was a brazen scheme. But Superior Court Judge William H. Bright, who heard Mr. Manzo’s appeal of the Southington probate court order setting up the trusts, would have none of it.

Full Article and Source:
Justice at Last for Disinherited Caretaker

See Also:
Panel Rules AGainst Lawyer in Smoron Probate Case

Astor son, 88, loses appeal, could face prison

March 27, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — New York philanthropist Brooke Astor’s 88-year-old son has lost an appeal that kept him out of prison after he was convicted of plundering her fortune.

The state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division ruled Tuesday that Anthony Marshall’s 2009 conviction was based on legally sufficient evidence. Appeals judges also rejected Marshall’s argument that his age and illness warranted sparing him prison.

Marshall was sentenced to at least a year in prison, but he was allowed to stay free on bail during the appeal. It’s not clear whether Marshall will now have to report to prison or may appeal further and remain free on bail.

Lawyer John Cuti says Marshall is exploring his legal options.

Full Article & Source:
Astor son, 88, loses appeal, could face prison