Archive for the ‘Iowa’ Category

Court: Iowa lawyers overbilled ill Vietnam veteran

June 18, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Lawyers who billed a mentally ill Vietnam War veteran $125 per hour for “services,” such as attending his birthday parties and taking him shopping, will have their licenses suspended for 18 months, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.
Keota law partners Donald Laing and Scott Railsback falsely claimed too many hours for providing conservator services to John KIein over three decades and charged excessive rates for services that didn’t require legal training, the court ruled. The attorneys received $178,000 in excess fees while managing Klein’s assets — even while he complained that they didn’t give him enough money to buy cigarettes and energy drinks.
“They turned everything into a profit for themselves,” said Oskaloosa attorney Garold Heslinga, who exposed the excess after suing Laing and Railsback on behalf of Klein in 2008. “They charged him to go visit him on his birthday. They charged him for going to Iowa City to buy presents to give some woman. It was just ridiculous.”
He said the discipline should have come “a long time ago,” and now may have little impact. The pair’s former law firm has changed hands, and a secretary said Friday they’ve retired. Their phone numbers were disconnected.
Laing was appointed Klein’s conservator in 1974 after Klein inherited valuable farmland and property. Then 24, he did not have a legal guardian at the time. Klein, who had a history of paranoid schizophrenia, depression and substance abuse, later inherited additional land and money worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The court said that Klein’s illness and volatile behavior posed significant and time-consuming challenges for Laing and Railsback, who helped relocate Klein to residential care facilities in California, Colorado and Connecticut. When Klein lived on his own, he had trouble with crime, relationships and money management.
Klein, now 63 and living independently in Iowa, admitted that the men were very helpful over the years, even if they were tight-fisted.
The court credited Laing and Railsback for assisting Klein in the absence of relatives but found the two ultimately took advantage of the relationship through indefensible charges.
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Court: Iowa lawyers overbilled ill Vietnam veteran

IA Group Home Caregiver Pleads Guilty to Financial Exploitation

January 31, 2013

A former caregiver at a Skyline Center group home pleaded guilty to financially exploiting two residents.
Anitra D. Enriquez pleaded guilty to two counts of dependant adult abuse, financial exploitation and received fines of $100 and $65.

According to court documents, Enriquez served as a Skyline caregiver at a group home at 272 36th Ave.

Samantha Kress, a Skyline employee, reported strange withdraws on the bank accounts of two dependent adults living at the group home at 272 36th Ave. North, according to the affidavit.

According to court documents, caregivers have access to residents’ accounts for dependent adult care.

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Woman Pleads Guilty to Financial Exploitation

Paralegal Blows Whistle on Ex-Boss, Says Cash Went in Book on Shelf; Lawyer Suspended for One Month

September 27, 2012

A paralegal who once worked for Iowa attorney Sara Anna Kersenbrock blew the whistle on her former boss, filing a 2010 disciplinary complaint that resulted in a one-month license suspension.

In a Friday opinion (PDF), the state supreme court imposed the sanction, rejecting a public reprimand proposed by the court’s attorney grievance commission.

The paralegal was a witness for the prosecution in the attorney discipline case, testifying that Kersenbrock didn’t deposit a number of client retainers into her trust account when she worked for the attorney between 2005 and 2010. Instead, Kersenbrock put retainer checks into her law firm operating account and put cash retainers into a drawer or in books on her bookshelf, then spent them when she needed money, the paralegal testified.

Testifying on her own behalf, Kersenbrock said she wasn’t required to deposit most of the retainers into her trust account, because they had already been earned when she put them into her operating account. She acknowledged some record-keeping issues, which she said she had taken steps to correct. She also said she had temporarily put one $3,000 cash retainer in her “sock drawer” for several weeks.

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Paralegal Blows Whistle on Ex-Boss, Says Cash Went in Book on Shelf; Lawyer Suspended for One Month

Iowa Judge’s Ruling Upsets Officials

June 10, 2012

A Burlington woman and her daughter authorities said abused a mentally handicapped man they were supposed to be caring for were placed on probation for five years during separate hearings Monday morning.

District Court Judge John Wright said the sentences for Cindy Dameron, 54, and Jodi Dameron, 35, were intended to allow the women to promptly pay back the $50,000 they are accused of stealing from their victim.

Wright said if the women were sent to prison, they could be paroled in less than two years.

“You’re going to have a lot of money to pay back along with your mother,” Wright told Jodi Dameron.

The sentences met fierce disagreement from at least seven officials from the Des Moines County Health Department and Area Agency for Aging, all of whom attended the sentencing hearings.

Since they were not considered victims, a reading of a collective statement from the officials was not allowed.

“We are sometimes very frustrated because we see that ‘systems’ don’t take this seriously as we hope they would,” the statement said.

“We strongly believe that rendering a sentence of probation for their crime against Robert L. Luth (victim) sends the wrong message to elders, their families and the community at large.

‘The message would be that it is okay to financially exploit an elder because the most that could happen to you is that you will get probation.”

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Judge’s Ruling Upsets Officials

Iowa: Elder Abuse Remains a Grossly Under Recognized Social Injustice

March 15, 2012

Elder abuse is grossly under-recognized and under-reported. It’s estimated that 84 percent of elder abuse cases go unreported and that 40 percent of all elder abuse involves some form of financial exploitation.

Research also has shown that elder abuse can dramatically shorten the life of a victim. The types of elder abuse include physical abuse, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, financial exploitation, denial of critical care by caretaker, self-neglect and verbal/psychological abuse.

Iowa is one of five states that does not have a law specifically addressing the unique needs of older adults. Iowa has a Dependent Adult Abuse Law, which is overseen by the Department of Human Services. Under this law, in order for DHS to intervene in cases of suspected abuse, there must be the following criteria: a dependent adult (a person age 18 or older), a caretaker and an allegation of abuse recognized by Iowa Code 235B or 235E.

This current law does not address the needs of victims who are experiencing abuse from someone who is not their caretaker, nor does it address an older adult who is experiencing self-neglect due to mental health issues or dementia.

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Elder Abuse Remains a Grossly Under Recognized Social Injustice

Bob Queener Guardians Deal With More Care Hurdles

February 18, 2012

Bob Queener of Des Moines, a dementia patient who has become the face of what some say are injustices in how elderly and mentally disabled Iowans are treated, is again facing uncertain living arrangements that his guardians describe as cruel.

The latest news: Queener was shipped to a psychiatric ward at the Veterans Administration hospital in Des Moines about 10 days ago, and his court-ordered care facility — Trinity Center at Luther Park — is now taking steps to assure that he won’t return to its care, his co-guardians say.

The guardians also say they were not notified of a commitment hearing in Polk County on Friday, and that the situation has left people who oversee Queener’s care to scramble in an attempt to find suitable living arrangements for the 80-year-old Korean War veteran, who also has autism.

“He’s a fine man,” Sen. Dennis Black, D-Grinnell and Queener’s co-guardian, said on the Senate floor Monday. “He’s done great things for this country. He’s always attended to his own business and never has been involved in crime, and now he’s being thrown away by the system.”

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Queener Guardians Deal With More Care Hurdles

See Also:
Bob Queener: “Slowly Tossed Away”

Iowa: Bill to Help Victims of Financial Exploitation

February 10, 2012

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill to help victims of identity theft and senior citizens who’ve been cheated.

Senate Study Bill 3055 allows Iowa victims of identity theft originating out of state to qualify for the Attorney General’s Identity Theft Passport Program. The Iowa Attorney General will provide victims with a “passport” that can be used as proof to law enforcement and creditors that someone has stolen their identity.

This bill will also allow victims of identity theft and elderly victims of financial exploitation to be eligible for help from the Victim Compensation Fund. Victims can get reimbursed for expenses, such as traveling to and from the courthouse to attend trial or missing work because of criminal proceedings related to the case.

The financial exploitation of senior citizens and identity theft are growing problems.

Full Article and Source:
Helping Victims of Financial Exploitation

Iowa Supreme Court Sides With HALT

November 3, 2011

On August 26, 2011, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected a proposal offered by the Office of Professional Regulation that would have allowed lawyers who voluntarily agree to be suspended to keep the reason for their suspension confidential.

“The Court’s decision to give this anti-consumer proposal the boot before it could even be distributed for public comment is very promising,” said HALT Executive Director Rodd Santomauro. “HALT has long supported increased transparency in lawyer discipline systems and applauds the Iowa Supreme Court’s quick action.”

According to a new HALT study, Iowa is one of 21 states that provide online access to court decisions or case briefs associated with attorney disciplinary proceedings. Thirty states give legal consumers absolutely no information about the details of an attorney’s misconduct.

The Iowa Office of Professional Regulation has now been tasked by the Court to come up with proposals that actually increase consumer protection. Those proposals will be released for public comment before the Court takes final action.

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Iowa Supreme Court Sides With HALT

Iowa Lawyer Suspended for 30 Days for Missing Deadlines

October 17, 2011

The Iowa Supreme Court suspended a Cedar Rapids lawyer Friday from practicing law for 30 days because he violated the rules of professional conduct.

Thomas Ochs repeatedly missed deadlines for filings in probate, estate, conservatorships and guardianships over the past eight years, according to the ruling. Two of the cases were left open for more than seven years, while other estates were open for four and five years.

Ochs repeatedly received inquiries from the court’s Attorney Disciplinary Board regarding his actions but he ignored them, according to the ruling. Ochs also received a private admonishing from the board in one case.

At the hearing, Ochs admitted to all the allegations in the board’s 10 count complaint, according to the ruling.

“He offered no excuses and expressed determination to change his delinquent conduct,” the court stated.

Ochs’ license to practice will be reinstated after 30 days unless the disciplinary board objects at that time, according to the ruling.

Full Article and Source:
Iowa Supreme Court Suspends CR Lawyer’s License for 30 Days

Millionaire’s Convictions Upheld Despite Frozen Assets

October 10, 2011

Iowa Supreme Court justices on Friday questioned the propriety of a Dubuque County court order seizing a millionaire’s assets prior to trial but said Robert Paul Krogmann’s convictions for willful injury and attempted murder should nevertheless stand intact.

Court records say Krogmann, who had a history of depression and bipolar disorder, shot his former girlfriend three times in March 2009 after an unsuccessful attempt to revive the relationship. Three weeks after the shooting, prosecutors applied for and received a court order freezing all $3.4 million of Krogmann’s assets.

According to the court’s opinion, the application for a freeze stated that the former girlfriend “had suffered severe injuries necessitating lengthy hospitalization, that Krogmann would be required to reimburse the victim for out-of-pocket expenses associated with the hospitalization and after-care, that Krogmann would be subject to civil litigation, and that Krogmann ‘has a number of assets that he may attempt to sell or transfer to avoid his financial obligation to the victim of his offenses.’ ”

Krogmann eventually set up a conservatorship in probate court to oversee his holdings. From July 2009 through October 2009, the district court, after hearing objections from the victim and from prosecutors, rejected requests to use farmland as security for Krogman’s bail and refused to let him spend money to hire a jury consultant.

Krogmann’s appeal contends that the asset freeze was illegal and that it violated his rights to due process, to be free from unconstitutional seizures and to counsel. But justices on Friday said his attorney had failed to properly object to those issues at the correct time.

“Our determination that Krogmann has failed to preserve error does not mean we approve of the asset freeze,” justices write. “We are troubled by the state’s effort to tie up a criminal defendant’s personal assets without citing any rule or statute, without making a verified filing and without citing the district court to relevant authority. … We also are troubled by the state’s attempts to use the asset freeze, once it was in place, to object to defense expenditures, not on the ground they would jeopardize restitution or other victim compensation (the alleged reasons for the asset freeze), but simply because the state deemed them unnecessary.”

Full Article and Source:
Millionaire’s Convictions Upheld Despite Frozen Assets