Archive for the ‘Financial Exploitation’ Category

Nursing assistant to go on trial for murder

September 9, 2013

BRATTLEBORO — A judge has rejected an 11th-hour move by a former Brattleboro nursing assistant, charged with murdering one of her nursing home patients, to dismiss most of the charges.

Judge David Suntag rejected the motion from Jodi LaClaire’s attorney, Daniel Sedon, who was seeking to have related financial exploitation charges dismissed.

Suntag’s decision sets the stage for LaClaire’s murder trial to begin Monday in Brattleboro criminal court.

LaClaire, 39, formerly of Bennington, N.H., faces charges of second-degree murder, elder abuse and seven counts of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. She is accused of injecting 85-year-old Nita Lowery of Brattleboro with a fatal dose of insulin on March 23, 2009 — medicine Lowery had never taken in her life.

According to pre-trial information from medical experts, the insulin injection left Lowery brain dead.

Lowery’s cause of death on April 1, 2009, was hypoglycemia, or extremely low blood sugar.

Court records say that in the early morning hours of March 23, LaClaire tried to use Lowery’s credit card as Lowery lay dying in her nursing home room.

LaClaire is also charged with accessing Lowery’s financial accounts in the weeks following Lowery’s death, pocketing about $4,000.

Sedon, in a motion filed last week, had asked that all of the financial charges against his client be dismissed. He argued that two necessary legal elements were missing from many of the charges against LaClaire.

But Assistant Attorney General Ultan Doyle criticized Sedon’s reasoning in his response to the motion. He said that by Sedon’s reading of the elderly exploitation statute, there was no crime involved by LaClaire using a dead woman’s credit card.

“He argues that if a person willfully uses funds of a vulnerable adult, without legal authority, for wrongful profit, no crime has been committed, and that, similarly, if a person willfully acquires possession of an interest in funds of a vulnerable adult through the use of undue influence, no crime has been committed,” Doyle wrote.

Sedon had argued that the language of the state law was flawed, and that the state’s charges “do not contain a plain, concise and definite written statement” of an alleged crime.

Sedon argued that in order for a crime to have been committed, the state had to allege that not only had funds been used by an unauthorized person, but that the acquisition of the funds was by ‘‘wrongful means.”

LaClaire was the only nursing assistant on Lowery’s floor that night, court records stated.

According to court records, LaClaire had financial problems, mostly medical bills from Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough, N.H. There were also records of LaClaire selling pieces of jewelry at a pawn shop in Massachusetts.

In late August, the state dropped nine of the financial exploitation and attempted financial exploitation counts against LaClaire, leaving seven in place.

Doyle noted that he would not present evidence about another patient at Thompson House, the Brattleboro nursing home where LaClaire worked. That patient also ended up in the emergency room with extremely low blood sugar, a sign of an insulin overdose.

Like Lowery, “T.I.” did not take insulin and was not a diabetic. “T.I.” was hospitalized and recovered from her severely low blood sugar, but died 10 months later from natural causes, court records stated.

According to court records, LaClaire herself is a diabetic and used injectable insulin.

Full Article and Source:
Nursing assistant to go on trial for murder

Cook County Opens New Elder Justice Center

September 6, 2013

CHICAGO (CBS) – Senior citizens in Cook County who need help navigating the court system, or fighting fraud and abuse, now have one place to turn for information.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the Cook County Elder Justice Center is the brainchild of Chief Judge Timothy Evans, and is located on the lower level of the Daley Center.

Presiding Judge Patricia Banks said volunteers and staff at the center can answer questions about financial exploitation, scams, and the like. “We don’t give legal advice,” she said. “No legal advice, or legal representation; but we do want seniors who have issues, who have questions about the court system, who have questions about paperwork that they might have that they don’t quite understand – we welcome them to come in. To the extent that we can help them, fine. If we can’t help them, we’re going to refer them to someone who can.”

Banks said she and Evans noticed seniors have become a growing part of the court system.

“They’re living longer, and they’re in need … because of all types of legal issues: consumer issues, the scams, we have also elder abuse and neglect,” she said. “That’s a very big issue, because of elder abuse, and neglect, and financial exploitation, we’re hearing stories everyday about seniors.”

Full Article and Source:
Cook County Opens New Elder Justice Center

Grand Forks Co. not liable for guardian

September 4, 2013

GRAND FORKS — It took a jury only about a half-hour Friday to decide Grand Forks County was not liable for any misdeeds by the county’s former public administrator Barb Zavala in her oversight of assets of Paul Veum, a ward of the county.

The four men and two women on the jury heard two days of testimony and a full morning of closing arguments by attorneys Friday. The verdict, read out in court by state District Judge Richard Geiger, found Zavala did “breach a fiduciary duty owed to Paul Veum” but that the breach didn’t cause any damages to Veum.

Zavala was not on trial in this civil case, but the county, as her employer, may have been on the hook for any damages.

A year ago Veum sued the county over what he claimed was mishandling by Zavala and her assistant, Cathi Westensee-Fisk, who acted as public administrators over Veum’s property and bank accounts for 90 days in 2011.

Veum, through his attorney, Tim Lamb, sought about $30,000 in damages, including cash and a 2002 pickup he claimed went missing while Zavala was his guardian and conservator. He also sought at least $50,000 for “pain and suffering,” but Judge Geiger limited the jury to finding only for “economic damages.”

That issue, and the larger one of whether Zavala “was acting within the scope of her employment” with the county, were not decided since the jury first found she caused no damages.

Veum, 77, lives in a nursing home in Lakota. He testified, despite showing the effects of Parkinson’s and dementia that were at issue in the trial. Under cross-examination by Howard Swanson, the county’s attorney, Veum said he couldn’t say for sure what Zavala took, if anything.

In his closing argument, Lamb told the jury to “use your common sense.”

Referring to Zavala and Westensee-Fisk, Lamb said, “If they didn’t breach their fiduciary duty, he’d still have stuff.”

Swanson admitted, during his closing statement, that Zavala failed to properly inventory and report on Veum’s property and bank account and what she did with it. But her failures “didn’t cause any of his property to go away,” and there was no evidence Zavala stole or mishandled any of it, Swanson said.

Swanson said he was pleased with the verdict and called it “consistent with what our position has been all along.”

Lamb said he was disappointed but respected the jury’s decision.

Zavala was ordered to take the stand this week, but she declined to answer questions from Lamb, citing her Fifth Amendment rights to not incriminate herself. State and federal prosecutors have been working on possible criminal charges against Zavala since late 2011.

The Veum case highlighted the unusual nature of the traditional office of public administrator in North Dakota counties. Grand Forks, after Zavala, was one of the last to contract out the services to a professional firm experienced in taking over the financial affairs of vulnerable adults.

Swanson’s argued that although Zavala was a county employee during her time as public administrator from 2008 until early 2012, the nature of the office under state law meant only a judge, not the county, had any supervisory control over her.

The Veum verdict may affect a similar lawsuit Lamb has brought against the county over Zavala’s handling of the property of Faith Krueger, an elderly Grand Forks woman.

t’s set to go to trial Sept. 10, also before Judge Geiger, and also with Swanson representing the county.

“I learned some things that should help in that case,” said Lamb, who told the jury this was his first courtroom trial. “But it’s a whole different set of facts in the Krueger case.”

Full Article and Source:
Grand Forks Co. not liable for guardian

See Also:
Elderly Claim County Exploitation

Elderly Claim County Exploitation

September 4, 2013

Grand Forks County has been hit with a civil lawsuit that claims the financial exploitation of elderly citizens.

Attorney, Tim Lamb says his clients lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, while Public Administrator, Barbara Zavala was working as their legal guardians. Zavala resigned her job in January.
Lamb says both victims were medically incapacitated at the time the incidents happened.

One of those clients is 85-years old Faith Krueger, who claims she’s lost over 300-thousand dollars.

Faith Krueger, Victim: “I’m just devastated by what happened.”

Reporter: “Faith, do you feel cheated?”

Krueger: “Yes I do, very much so.”

Reporter: “Did it cause lots of mental stress?”

Krueger: “A great deal if it, yes.”

Rodney Folkers is now the legal guardian for the second victim, Paul Veum, who lost 50-thousand dollars.

Rodney Folkers, Legal Guardian: “You know… was able to care for himself. He didn’t need anybody. He didn’t need the County. He didn’t want the County… didn’t want the help.”

Reporter: “Where did the money go?”

Tim Lamb, Attorney: “We don’t know. We’re assuming or we’re making the allegation that it’s been taken and it is in effect, been exploited from her.”

Lamb emphasizes that this is a civil lawsuit. However, he says a criminal investigation is underway.

Lambs call it a horrendous act…  and says he believes there may be more victims.

No criminal charges have been filed in this case. The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation will not confirm any involvement in an active case.

Howard Swanson, the attorney representing Grand Forks County is on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

Attorney Tim Lamb says he’s expecting a response from the County to his lawsuit sometime next week.

Full Article and Source:
Elderly Claim County Exploitation

Former assisted living center director sentenced in financial exploitation

August 20, 2013
Elaine Marie Elcyzyn

JAY – The former director of a Grand Lake assisted living center accused of using a patient’s debit card at several casinos received a 15-year suspended sentence and order to pay restitution, a prosecutor said Monday.

Elaine Marie Elcyzyn, 38, of Grove, pleaded no contest in Delaware County District Court on Thursday to financial exploitation by caretaker.

She was also ordered to pay $4,680.30 in addition to a $1,000 fine and court costs, said Nick Lelecas, assistant district attorney.

Elcyzyn, the former director of Grand Wood Assisted Living, was charged after bank statements of a dementia patient showed numerous ATM withdraws amounting to over $2,743 were withdrawn at the Grand Lake Casino in Grove, Turtle Stop Casino in Wyandotte and Cherokee Casino in Watts, according to an arrest affidavit.   

Full Article and Source:
Former assisted living center director sentenced in financial exploitation

Daughter pleads not guilty to financial exploitation

August 8, 2013

A Byron woman has pleaded not guilty to charges that she financially exploited her mother.        

Kathleen Marion Studnicka, 46, was charged Dec. 5 in Olmsted County District Court with two felony counts of financial exploitation-vulnerable adult.

According to the criminal complaint, an investigation that began in August 2012 revealed that from July 2011 through March 2012, more than $23,000 had been deposited into the 86-year-old woman’s bank account. During that time, she had accumulated a bill for housing and care that totaled nearly $15,000.

According to the complaint, Studnicka, who had power of attorney over her mother’s finances, withdrew more than $22,000 from the account, with her mother’s permission. None of the money was used for the older woman’s expenses, the report says.

Full Article and Source:
Daughter pleads not guilty to financial exploitation

Woman indicted in patients’ jewelry theft

July 23, 2013

Lacey R. Simmons, 25, of 1824 N. Sheridan Road is charged with three counts each of burglary and financial exploitation of a person with a disability. She faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
Simmons is accused of taking jewelry from three patients at the Grand View Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in May.

Police said she told them she took some of the $3,000 in jewelry that was missing from the care center in late May.

Full Article and Source:
Woman indicted in patients’ jewelry theft

Be on the Lookout: Con Artists Stealing Guardianship of Senior Parents

July 22, 2013

Senior adults have been targeted as easy victims in a number of different scams for the last two decades now, and it’s only getting worse. Instead of just stealing money from them or ripping them off, con artists are now actually stealing guardianship of many senior adults. Some criminals have figured out that they can assume guardianship of elderly individuals just by telling a judge they are no longer mentally stable.

When approaching a judge, these crooks don’t have to do anything to prove that they are related to the individual they are trying to assume guardianship of. Courts are so busy and over-packed with cases that they just don’t have the time or resources to make sure that the person making the claim is on the up and up. There’s no easy way to find out when this occurs, so family members often have no idea that someone is stealing guardianship of their parents and simply have no recourse in the event that it happens. Usually the ruling happens quickly and the victims have no idea when it happens.

If you have any aging parents, you have to look out for them and make sure they are not victimized.

From September 2007:  Full Article and Source:
Be on the Lookout:  Con Artists Stealing Guardianship of Senior Parents

New Virginia Law Aims To Help Elderly Victims

July 18, 2013

Every year there are more than 1,000 cases of financial exploitation of adults in the State of Virginia. The sad reality is elderly individuals are at a great risk of being taken advantage of by caregivers, including both professionals and relatives. Thankfully, legislators in Virginia recently passed a new law that is designed to help reduce that number.

The new law, which was implemented as of July 1, 2013, creates a criminal penalty for those who aim to take financial advantage of seniors. The law specifically states that it is a crime to financially exploit any mentally incapacitated adults.

One tragic case highlights the dangers of financial exploitation and involved a woman, Jeannie Beidler, who says her uncle financially exploited her grandparents, both of whom were suffering from dementia. Beidler says her uncle was their live-in caretaker and not only financially abused them, but also subjected them to physical abuse and neglect. The uncle would let the elderly couple sit around in their own waste for days while he forced Beidler’s grandmother to write him blank checks.

Once the scheme was finally uncovered the uncle was arrested and charged with abuse and neglect, but there was no crime for the financial exploitation he had engaged in. Now that the new law has been passed future cases will allow prosecutors to go after those people who preyed on vulnerable seniors in their time of need.

Sadly, stories of seniors being scammed out of the money it took them a lifetime of hard work to earn are increasingly common. According to a study by MetLife, incidents of elder financial fraud increased by 12% from 2008 to 2010, amounting to a whopping $2.9 billion in stolen money.

There are a lot of reasons why seniors are such attractive targets for financial crime. Experts say that those over the age of 50 control over 70% of the country’s wealth, yet many may not realize the true value of the property they possess. As elders become more physically frail, they may not see or hear as well or think as clearly as they used to, leaving openings for unscrupulous people to take advantage of them. As a group, the elderly are also likely to suffer from disabilities that make them dependent on others for help. These “helpers” may have nearly limitless access to the assets of their victims, and often exert powerful influence over the senior.

Though financial exploitation is bad enough, the fact is financial crime often goes hand in hand with other kinds of senior abuse. In many cases, caregivers who try and steal money from an elderly person have also been found to have either physically abused or neglected them.

Full Article and Source:
New Virginia Law Aims To Help Elderly Victims

D.C. lawyer gets harsher penalty for lying in discipline hearings

July 16, 2013

A lawyer who convinced a District of Columbia bar discipline hearing committee that she was truthful about events from several years earlier had less credibility in a subsequent hearing by the Board on Professional Responsibility and ultimately, on Thursday, when the D.C. Court of Appeals upheld the Board.

Stephanie Y. Bradley’s “intentional falsehood” turned out to be an aggravating factor for the board’s decision, upheld by the appeals court (PDF), to suspend her from the practice of law for two years.

The initial hearing committee, though believing Bradley’s explanation on some key points, had found her ethical lapses sufficient to recommend 90 days. She had previously received three formal admonitions.

The suspension concerned Bradley’s failures as a court-appointed guardian for two persons. From 1999 until 2004, she represented the interests of a man with developmental disabilities who was hospitalized with head trauma, until she could have him moved to a nursing home; and from 1999 until 2004, she represented the interests of an elderly and infirm woman.

Though claiming she regularly visited the man at the nursing home, Bradley was shown to have largely ignored him for nine years, having filed only three of the required semi-annual reports with the superior court and ignoring calls and letters from the man’s family in Texas, who wanted to move him closer to them. In 2004, the family got another lawyer to initiate the move and filed a bar complaint against Bradley.

While guardian for the woman, Bradley failed to prevent a purported family friend and caretaker from embezzling between $200,000 and $250,000 from her bank account and failed to file for a payout from a life insurance policy and for a civil-service lump sum benefit due the woman.
In 2003, another lawyer represented the woman in removing Bradley from her care, then sued Bradley and recovered more than $400,000.

Full Article and Source:
D.C. lawyer gets harsher penalty for lying in discipline hearings