Archive for the ‘ABC Action News I-Team’ Category

Losing Freedom: The ABC Action News I-Team Investigates Florida’s Guardianship Program

November 6, 2013

She met friends for lunch, went shopping at thrift stores and spent dozens of hours at her feed store and at home.

That’s what we discovered when the I-Team followed Patricia Johnson for five straight days.

But only once, for approximately 20 minutes, did we see Johnson go to an assisted living facility to check on one of her 50 incapacitated wards.

That’s not surprising to some of their family members.

“When you walk into the nursing home and they’re like ‘we never see her here, we can never get a hold of her, she’s very hard to reach,’” said Amy Eldridge, whose grandmother Rita Eldridge was one of Johnson’s wards.

When asked whether Johnson comes to visit her mother Rebie Jimenez often, Cindy Lee replied, “My mother says no. But then when I ask the staff there, they say never. “

Bills from Johnson’s wards’ files indicate she’s working hard on her wards’ behalf.

Under Florida law, Johnson is allowed to use her wards’ own money to pay herself $70 an hour for things like banking, opening mail and paying visits.

Her bills can only be submitted twice a year for each ward and have to be approved by a judge.

The I-Team spent more than two weeks pulling hundreds of Johnson’s bills from court files and entering them into a spreadsheet.

We discovered that from January 1st, 2010 to December 31st, 2012 Johnson’s bills added up to $260,000, an average of nearly $87,000 a year.

Full Article and Source:
Losing Freedom: The I-Team Investigates Florida’s Guardianship Program

See Also:
ABC Action News I-Team Personal Stories

ABC I-Team Investigation: Family Members Raise New Questions About Guardianship Program in Florida

November 5, 2013

In September, the I-Team introduced you to Patricia Johnson, a Pinellas Park City Council woman who serves as a professional guardian for 50 wards.

Now, there are new questions about how she handles her cases.

Family members of other wards are now speaking out about their experiences with the professional guardianship program.

“Birthday parties, Christmases, everything. My grandmother raised me for a good section of my life,” said Amy Eldridge.

[In] 2008, Amy’s grandmother Rita was declared incapacitated by the court.

Amy says she doesn’t know why.

Rita was removed from her house and Patricia Johnson became her court-appointed professional guardian.

Amy’s father James took care of his mother in her house at the time.

“There was no family that they knew of when they were going through the process,” Amy said, describing how it was reported to the judge that Rita Eldridge had no one to care for her, even though her father was living in the house with his mother at that time.

Johnson evicted James on Rita’s behalf and obtained a nearly $5,000 judgment to pay the legal bill.
Rita Eldridge was moved to a nursing home.

Her own home was sold for less than half its appraised value.

“We were told that, basically, we were stealing if we took anything from the house,” said Amy Eldridge.

As for the sentimental things left in the home, “They were all taken from the house and thrown away. There was no ‘hey, we’ve gotten everything of value out of this house, if you would like to come rummage through this, you can get what’s left. It was ‘everything in the house needs to stay, you just need to go and everything’s ours now.’”

Everything was sold for $295 to the same man court records show bought several wards’ possessions, including those of Rebie Jimenez for $100.

“I was never allowed into the house to go through any of my mom’s belongings or even our items as we were growing up as kids,” said Cindy Lee, Jimenez’s daughter.

Before being incapacitated, Jimenez lived with her husband Fernando, who Patricia Johnson also evicted immediately.

Lee said that her mother’s husband Fernando, who lived in the home for 25 years, was locked out of his residence by Johnson.

He died several days after his wife was taken away.

“I was like wow, how can this have happened? They removed her, then a total stranger came in and took over and then next thing I know, immediately, there was a for sale sign up,” said Lee.

The home sold for $85,000 to an investor, who resold it for $170,000 four months later.

Rebie Jimenez is now in the memory unit at Grand Villa.

Rita Eldridge passed away last November.

“I felt like my grandmother was in prison. I had to go to her warden to make sure everything was ok. So that I could see her,” said Amy Eldridge.

Johnson refused multiple requests for an interview.

Full Article, Video and Source:
Family members raise new questions about guardianship program in Florida

See Also:
ABC Action News:  Questionable Guardianship Real Estate Transactions

FL: ABC Action News I-Team: "Incapacitated: Florida’s Guardianship Program"

November 5, 2013

The ABC Action News I-Team first started looking into Florida’s Guardianship Program after we learned 99-year-old William Berchau had been placed in an Alzheimer’s unit by his guardian, despite strong evidence from those who know him best that he didn’t belong there.

We soon began looking at more than 50 other cases involving his guardian, Patricia Johnson, and Florida’s guardianship system.

The I-Team discovered a system that claims to look after wards’ best interests, but has very little oversight outside of the courtroom.

In Florida, guardians are not required to get appraisals before selling wards’ homes, leading to homes often selling far below their actual values (meaning less money is available for wards’ care). Guardians also aren’t required to be accompanied while doing initial inventories of personal possessions. Often, relatives aren’t allowed to review what reportedly came out of their loved ones’ homes.

Guardians use the “honor system” when submitting bills.

Judges, in some cases, have disregarded signed legal documents that delegated powers-of-attorney, medical decision-making and other legal authorities to their relatives before wards were incapacitated.

The I-Team interviewed friends and family members of wards, experts in the guardian field and others to get a deeper sense of what’s going on within this system that remains invisible to most members of the public.

Incapacitated:  Florida’s Guardianship Program

ABC Action News I-Team: Personal Stories

November 5, 2013

Who Is William Bercheau?

Who is Rita Eldridge?

Who is Rebie Ellen Jimnez?

Who is Paulette Karpa?

Incapacitated: Florida’s Guardianship Program

ABC Action News: Who is William Bercheau?

November 1, 2013

William Bercheau started our investigation into the professional guardian program in Florida when the ABC Action News I-Team discovered he was placed in an Alzheimer’s unit, even though there was strong evidence he didn’t belong there. 

 Since then, we’ve been digging deeper… preparing to reveal what we discovered in a series of stories starting Monday.

 William Berchau was born in Lithuania in 1914.

He fled to Germany during Joseph Stalin’s rise to power, then immigrated from Germany to the United States to escape Adolph Hitler’s regime.

Berchau had a long career as an employee of the Illinois Central Railroad.  He and his wife retired in Clearwater, Fla.

Shortly after her death in 2010, he attempted to sell his house and was soon taken into the Florida Guardian Program.

Patricia Johnson was appointed his professional guardian late that year. He has tried to have her removed on several occasions, to no avail.

Watch the video of William Berchau telling his story in his own words.

See also:
ABC Action News:  Questionable Guardianship Real Estate Transactions