Elderly Pinellas Man Freed From Alzheimer’s Unit After I-Team Looks at His Case

On a Sunday morning last month, a spry 99-year-old Pinellas County retiree got his first taste of freedom in weeks.

William Berchau says he doesn’t get out of an assisted living facility much anymore. “No, I’m not allowed,” Berchau told the ABC Action News I-Team. “My court-appointed guardian doesn’t allow me to leave the premises.”

A month before his Sunday visit to church in August, Berchau was placed in a locked Alzheimer’s unit at the Grand Villa of Pinellas Park. Berchau and his pastor contend Florida’s guardianship system has let him down and their complaints about his guardian have been ignored by the Pinellas judiciary.
“He seems to be very mentally sharp and alert,” Berchau’s pastor, David Priebe, said of his church member. “I just can’t believe that somebody would think he’s incompetent mentally.”

The I-Team pointed out to the clergyman that the Pinellas probate court has ruled Berchau to be incapacitated three times since 2010. Priebe just shook his head. “Wow,” the pastor said.

“There’s nobody that’s more vulnerable than a ward who has assets and can’t keep track of where they’re going or what’s happening with them,” said Robert W. Melton, who retired in 2009 as inspector general for the Pinellas circuit court clerk. “The ward basically has no rights.”

During his nine years as the Pinellas clerk’s internal watchdog, Melton was a critic of the county guardianship system’s lack of transparency. “It’s a very closed process and, in many cases, the public is not aware of the things that have gone on or are going on in guardianships,” Melton said.

Pinellas Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold, who presides over the Berchau guardianship and hundreds of others, says he doesn’t believe the secrecy surrounding guardianships is a problem. “I think our professional guardians do a wonderful job,” St. Arnold told the I-Team. “I’m really pleased with them.”

Full Article and Source:
Elderly Pinellas Man Freed From Alzheimer’s Unit After I-Team Looks at His Case

See Also:
I-Team: Court disregards preneed plan, appoints professional guardian


22 Responses to “Elderly Pinellas Man Freed From Alzheimer’s Unit After I-Team Looks at His Case”

  1. Thelma Says:

    Florida is a hotbed of unlawful and abusive guardianships.Thank you, ABC, for alerting the public.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Great report! Thank you I-Team!

  3. Becky Says:

    I'm so glad to see Florida in the news!

  4. Becky Says:

    I'm so glad to see Florida in the news!

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you I-Team. This is the norm in Pennsylvania, and the media isn't interested in the problem.

  6. Rudy Bush Says:

    There is a serious disconnect in thinking, and human values, between judges and the public. Judges do not have to show their reasoning or defend their reasoning. When a judge says he thinks guardians or hang-men are doing a "fine job," that is the end of the matter. And citizens are supposed to be thankful the judge said anything at all.

  7. macdoo Says:

    Please see and share what is going on in Pensacola FL http://freeernestine.com/Free_Ernestine/Free_Ernestines_Story.html

  8. Debby Says:

    This is not just happening in Florida, this is happening all over the country since Guardianship has become BIG BUSINESS of taking advantage of the elderly and disabled. Guardianship was created to protect those who had no family and friends, and today even family and friends are being disqualified to become a guardian of their loved one for promoting the growth industry of Guardianships. Since the beginnig of this business guardianship abuse such as what is written in this story is becoming an everyday event, crimes to the disable and elderly are being committed by probate judges and attorneys. Guardianships should be moved out of Probate Court. These courts handle the affiars of the deceased. The administration of guardianships in Probate Courts simply identifies "civil death" and the elderly and disabled will continue to be locked out of sight and out of mind. All their rights are taken, their money and eventually thier lives. This is our future folks.I appreciate the I-Team doing this story, perhaps they would be interested in following the money of the "wards of the State of Florida". That would explain why the elderly and disable under guardianships are being locked away with "guards".

  9. StandUp Says:

    I know Florida victims are cheering this report. Thank you ABC I-Team. You have given a lot of people hope!

  10. Celeste Says:

    We have been praying for this kind of coverage. Thank you ABC I-Team and thank you NASGA.

  11. Drew Says:

    Patricia Johnson should be investigated and removed from her position for just what she did to this man.If she did this to him, there are more victims she's mistreated….in my opinion.

  12. Holly Peffer Says:

    ABC I-Team has done an outstanding job reporting this story. It would be a huge benefit to vulnerable citizens if they did more of these stories in an effort to develop public awareness. The abuse and exploitation under guardianships is horrendous and people need to be warned because most have never heard of such a thing. You never see it coming until they "got ya!"

  13. Luis Says:

    Debby said "Follow the money of the wards…"I say "Follow the money of the guardian and the facilities she uses."

  14. Anonymous Says:

    As bad as the guardianships have become, the power-of-attorney, in the wrong hands, can also be deadly. An attorney, as a white collar criminal, can steal everything your family has had for hundreds of years, prohibit the family from knowing anything about their family member, isolate your family member as they move them far away against their wishes and mislead, misrepresent and completely defraud their client while making false statements against their family to further separate and alienate the client from his family. Further, this corrupt attorney can willfully commit criminal acts without any accounting to anyone, including the client themselves. An attorney accustomed to this crime then becomes arrogant and cocky to the point that he feels himself beyond any and all laws, further connecting and encroaching on popular and influential members of the community, buying adult toys for himself, as he sails through what he thinks is a life's dream of lottery winnings. He screams, "Mine, Mine…. All Mine!" Infested with an insatiable greed, he continues to grow like the fungus he is with no police to enforce the laws against thievery. Incredible as it may seem, our law enforcement is trained to see this as a civil matter, no matter how much is stolen. It's a crime. Ask anyone who's been victimized by this crime and they will tell you they have been destroyed by these criminals, put under long term stress, in a way that far extends the street criminal that makes a one time stop at your house. How is it that this crime is tolerated? Will you welcome the day when they come to your door and do this to you? Thank you for reporting on this case in Florida. I hope that other reporters will follow in your footsteps. This is happening throughout the United States. Anon

  15. Teresa Says:

    I agree 100% with Thelma (posted on 9/26/13). This is what happened to my mom, and of COURSE the judge is going to say "good job." These abusive guardians are part of who ELECT them in the first place. Selfish and heartless.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    The judges in florida, created this corrupt system, you think they are going to say anything bad? They need to be investigated! They are hiding the records from the Public for a reason. They get christmas cards from the guardians and their attorneys, they socialize with them and I would guess except gifts and money from them,after all they are the ones handing out all the high fees, that they agreed too. The system is not about the care of the elderly as the law had intended, it is all about power and money. Follow the money!

  17. Anonymous Says:

    I think part of the real problem is, Judges, attorneys, and guardians in Florida really think, the Clearwater bar, the St. Pete. bar, and all the other bars they are members of, are real bars! They all appear to be drunk all the time, have addictive personalities, get DUIs! and everyone says they are always parting and drinking!

  18. Anonymous Says:

    It is so sad for the gentleman, any one in Florida can request or remove a guardian, for many reasons. Being isolated and not allowed to leave your ALF to go to church or see friends, sounds like a very good reason to get a new guardian or to have one removed. We have hundreds of guardian's here, many thinking they are going to strike it rich. They are not trained properly! The judges involved must be involved with the corruption of the system, if the judge is unwilling to follow the law. Some one needs to step up and remove these Judges that think they are the law!

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Why does this woman have 50 wards!, we have so many guardians and new ones by the dozens, all it takes is a short course, very easy to become one, low and easy entry level. Why don't these judges spread them around, something is not right here. She cannot even take care of the ones she has properly and the judges keep giving her more. The judges must be getting something in return!

  20. Anonymous Says:

    The comment regarding Power of Attorney does certainly apply but the guardianship abuse issue I believe is even more serious in that the guardians have even more power and experience. They can work the system under the cloak of the probate court along with their key players in crime to be more effective in the overall cannibalism of the wards. I am so grateful to see these stories of guardianship abuse being exposed by I-Team!!! People must know the horrid truth about this unique method to legally wipe out innocent lives. The wards, their loved ones, and finally, the taxpayers. More to come soon…

  21. Anonymous Says:

    http://www.eldermurderabuseandexploitation.blogspot.comI have so much to load on here to report them all but I am tired now and need to take a break…

  22. Betty Says:

    The fact that he was taken out of the Alzheirmer's unit after the I-Team got involved speaks volumes!

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