Archive for the ‘Pennsylvania’ Category

Woman Jailed On Charges She Abused An Elderly Female Relative

August 19, 2013

LEVITTOWN, Pennsylvania — An eastern Pennsylvania woman has been jailed on charges she abused an elderly female relative by poking the woman in the eyes and squeezing the woman so hard around the rib cage that she was bruised and unable to move for days.

Online court records don’t list an attorney for 49-year-old Patricia Ann Fitzgerald, of Falls Township, Bucks County.

The Bucks County Courier-Times reports the incident happened July 19, but Fitzgerald wasn’t arraigned on aggravated assault and other charges until Tuesday, because police had to investigate the older woman’s claims.

Police say the alleged victim waited three days to report the attack because she couldn’t move due to the injuries, which left her with severe bruises on her ribs, scratches on her back, and severely swollen eyes.

Full Article and Source:
Police charge eastern Pa. woman with poking elderly relative in eyes, squeezing her very hard

Guardianship cases can turn into nightmares for wards and their families

August 16, 2013

Rita Denmark, 82, walking on the beach
 in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., in 2009.
 For the past five years, Rita, a lifelong
 Pennsylvanian, has been a
ward of a Florida guardian.
(Photo courtesy of Holly Peffer
for Public Source)

Maybe you know an older person suffering from Alzheimer’s or an adult who is intellectually disabled. In the best cases, a family member or friend will agree to care for people in these vulnerable situations. But when family conflicts come into play, the case can go to what’s known as guardianship—the courts assign someone to care for that person.

Things can get very ugly very quickly.

Holly Peffer had recently bought a new house in Derrick City, Pa., in 2007, when her life was upended.

“We bought a huge, beautiful, beautiful old home with several acres,” Peffer said. She was preparing to care for her elderly mother, Rita Demark, who was in the early stages of dementia.

“She was physically very, very healthy,” Peffer said. “She walked miles a day. But she had some memory issues. She couldn’t remember what she had for lunch. She loved the outdoors and the four seasons in Pennsylvania. She was born and raised in Pennsylvania and domiciled here her entire life.”
Peffer maintained contact with her sister, who sometimes cared for their mother, though according to Holly, her sister took liberties.

“My sister and my mother are very, very close, and my sister would never physically harm my mother, but as mom’s memory had gotten worse, because my sister was having some financial, many financial difficulties, she was taking more and more and more from my mom,” Peffer recalled. “You know, there were some checks missing, and very obvious forgeries for maybe a couple hundred dollars, there was one for $2,000.”

A worker from the Department of Aging suggested that Peffer apply for guardianship over her mother to keep money from disappearing. That process involves a hearing before a judge. But when the day of the hearing came, Peffer got an urgent call from her mom’s banker.

“She says, ‘Holly, what the hell is going on?’ I said ‘I don’t know, why, what are you talking about?'”

The bank had just received a fax that her power of attorney for her mother had been rescinded. The fax came from Holly’s estranged brother in Florida.  Her sister had whisked their mother down south and quickly petitioned so a professional guardian named Jetta Getty would control the mother’s future. Peffer said the Florida court never asked whether Rita Denmark was even a Florida resident.

Full Article and Source:
Guardianship cases can turn into nightmares for wards and their families

Luzerne caregiver accused of taking at least $258K from elderly woman

August 12, 2013

A Luzerne woman is facing theft charges after prosecutors say she stole more than a quarter-million dollars from an elderly woman for whom she was supposed to be caring.

Sharon Mae Jacobosky, 70, is charged with three counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received.

According to the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, Dallas Borough police began investigating Jacobosky after getting a complaint that she was taking money for her own benefit. At the time, Jacobosky was the caregiver and had power of attorney for Clementine Moseman, according to prosecutors.

The Institute on Protective Services at Temple University conducted a forensic audit on accounts owned by Moseman and her daughter, Pamela Wehrenberg, prosecutors said.

The audit revealed Jacobosky had taken $258,538 between Jan. 1, 2009, and Nov. 4, 2011, according to prosecutors.

“An overwhelming number of cases of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation go undetected each year,” District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said in a statement. “Unfortunately, some of these vulnerable adults are abused by family members, service providers and caregivers.”

Full Article and Source:
Luzerne caregiver accused of taking at least $258K from elderly woman

As PA Ages, the State Examines Guardianships and Abuse

August 4, 2013

by Halle Stockton:
Pennsylvania is fourth in the country in terms of its elderly population, and as the state’s more than 3.3 million Baby Boomers join the ranks of the elderly, state courts and welfare systems will be put to the test. Guardianships are especially open to abuse because there is little regulation or oversight.
Examining guardianship is a priority in the state, with both the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania conducting studies. While guardianships are needed for those who can no longer care for themselves, they also require individuals to surrender all their rights — in some cases to a total stranger.

The National Center for State Courts estimated there were 1.5 million active guardianships in the U.S. in 2011. In Pennsylvania, the courts decided more than 30,000 guardianship cases between 2000 and 2011.

Some cases reviewed by PublicSource show the difficulties that guardianships often bring. According to court documents and personal accounts:

  • In late 2007, two of Rita Denmark’s children filed for guardianship of their mother in different states — one in Pennsylvania, where Rita was a lifelong resident, another in Florida. The dispute came to a head while Rita, who has dementia, was visiting her son in Florida. Attorneys suggested an independent guardian serve for a short time. Now, Rita has been a ward of a guardian in Port Orange, Fla., for more than five years. Her daughter, Holly Peffer of McKean County, has been trying to bring her 82-year-old mother home. The guardian has billed nearly $94,000 from Rita’s estate. “I had no idea how dangerous guardianship was,” Holly said.

  • Three people brought Grace Connors, who was suffering from dementia, from California to Pennsylvania in 2001. One of them obtained a fraudulent power of attorney to control her assets. Daughter Mary Claire Connors, who had cared for her mother in California, traveled east to reclaim her, but a Luzerne County judge appointed a nonprofit agency as guardian. Mary Connors said that, under guardianship, her mother’s estate was depleted and she was not allowed to visit without supervision. She said she spent at least $100,000 and went bankrupt trying to get her mother back. Grace died in 2006 at age 85. Guardianship, Mary said, is “ownership of a human being …. There is no escape.”

  • Problems can also occur when the guardian is a family member. Shelley Kuziak of Columbia County said she was the primary caregiver for her mother, Miriam Kuziak, for several years. But Shelley’s sister became guardian in 2006. The sisters’ opinions on how to care for their mother differed. Shelley said she repeatedly fought in court for visitation after being accused of coercing her mother to accept medical treatment. She said she was not permitted to visit her mother in the years leading up to her 2008 death at age 77.

Full Article, Video and Source:
As PA ages, the state examines guardianships and abuse

See Also:
NASGA:  Rita Denmark, PA/FL Victim

NASGA: Grace Connors, Pennsylvania Victim

Judge grants prosecutors access to some of guardian’s records

July 25, 2013

Federal prosecutors can obtain information on tax and criminal law classes taken by former Lackawanna County guardian ad litem Danielle Ross, but other documents related to extracurricular activities and disciplinary reports are off-limits, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Senior U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo agreed with prosecutors that some information they sought is relevant to the prosecution of Mrs. Ross on tax-evasion charges. But he limited the information they can obtain, agreeing with Mrs. Ross that a subpoena issued to Widener University School of Law was too broad.

The decision is among several pretrial rulings Judge Caputo issued Tuesday. He also granted Mrs. Ross’ request that prosecutors disclose any information they have that might impeach the credibility of their witnesses, but denied her request to learn the identity of the witnesses.

Ms. Ross, 36, served as a court-appointed advocate to represent children in parent custody disputes. A grand jury indicted her in February on charges she failed to disclose about $200,000 in parents’ payments from 2009 to 2010.

Full Article and Source:
Judge grants prosecutors access to some of guardian’s records

Newport Twp. police investigating elder abuse claim

July 12, 2013

Newport Township police are investigating a report of abuse against a resident at a local nursing home.

Police were recently notified about the allegations and have been interviewing employees at Guardian Eldercare Center, 147 Old Newport St., to determine what happened, Newport Township police Chief Jeremy Blank said today. One instance of abuse has been reported, he said.

Blank declined to specify what the alleged abuse entailed, citing an ongoing investigation, but said the allegations were not sexual in nature.

The Guardian Eldercare Center released a statement saying administrators learned about an alleged incident of abuse on Wednesday and contacted police, as required by law.

“The facility is working in conjunction with local law enforcement and all other appropriate regulatory agencies to ensure ongoing resident safety,” the statement said. “Guardian Eldercare Center takes allegations of resident abuse very seriously and has a zero tolerance policy for any violation of resident rights.”

The statement did not address the nature of the alleged abuse, nor whether any staff members had been disciplined.

The center has had some troubles in the past, according to records from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

An inspection Jan. 31 resulted in the agency recommending the center develop and implement policies for screening and training employees as well as for identifying, investigating and reporting abuse and neglect, according to an HHS report.

The inspection revealed a bed-ridden resident who requires the assistance of two people to be transferred from bed and one person for using the bathroom had fallen out of bed in August, prompting his responsible party to ask, “Did he get pushed out of bed?” according to the report.
The man, who was unable to describe what happened, had a 3 centimeter tear on his right elbow, the report says.

Despite a roommate who was able to talk being present and the resident’s responsible party questioning the fall, administrators failed to ask the roommate what happened, the report concludes.

The report also faults the center for failing to provide a resident a suitable meal, failing to report a resident’s high blood sugar to a medical doctor, failing to respond timely to call bells — causing some residents to have accidents — and running out of prescription medications.

Full Article and Source:
Newport Twp. police investigating elder abuse claim

PA Court Case Examines Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will

June 13, 2013

Pennsylvania’s Superior Court recently decided an important case concerning the validity of a health care power of attorney and living will once an individual becomes incapacitated: In re: Estate and Person of Russell R. Border Jr., an incapacitated person, 2013 PA Super 94 (April 23, 2013).

Because of the importance of the case and the need to recount facts, this will be a two-part article continuing next month.
In 2010, the Berks County Office of Aging filed a petition for appointment of a guardian on behalf of Border, a 62-year old resident of a nursing facility with chronic medical conditions and failing health. Border had a wife and two adult daughters.
In 2007, he executed a health care power of attorney naming his eldest daughter, Renee, as his agent.
The Office of Aging requested that Renee be appointed as guardian of Border’s person and nominated an attorney, Sharon Gray, as guardian of the estate. The Orphans’ Court Judge entered an order declaring Border to be an incapacitated person, appointed his daughter as guardian of the person, Gray as guardian of the estate, and revoked any other existing health care power of attorney previously executed by Border.
Two weeks later, the Office of Aging filed a motion for reconsideration based upon Renee’s decision to remove Border from the nursing facility to return him to his residence, where she intended to care for him. The Office of Aging felt that Renee was not physically able to care for her father and that he belonged in a nursing facility. The Orphans’ Court judge agreed and amended its order to appoint Gray as guardian of the estate. For two years, Gray served in the capacity of guardian of Border’s person and estate, making all decisions regarding his care and finances.
In March 2012, Border was admitted to the ICU at Reading Hospital, placed on a mechanical ventilator with other forms of life-sustaining treatment. Border’s physician contacted Gray to advise that Border’s health condition was both terminal and futile, and requested that she authorize removal of life support. Border’s family, including his wife, brother, sister and both adult daughters, all agreed with this recommendation. Gray disagreed and asserted her authority as guardian of Border’s person to prohibit the removal of life support.
In 2007, Border executed a durable power of attorney for health care and living will, where he appointed his daughter, Renee, as agent. Border elected to have life-sustaining treatments under all categories of situations listed in the living-will document. He also opted for his preferences to serve as a “general guide,” acknowledging that “in some situations, the person making the decisions for him may decide something different … if they think it is in his best interest.” Relying upon the living will and conversations between herself and Border (acknowledging, however, that those conversations took place after Border was already incapacitated), Gray refused to authorize removal of life support.
As a result of the conflict between Border’s family and Gray as guardian, the hospital filed an emergency petition, seeking the removal of Gray as guardian and suggesting that Border’s brother replace Gray. The Orphans’ Court Judge did just that, directing that the brother had specific authority to withhold and/or decline any life-sustaining medical treatment, including removing Border from a ventilator.

Supreme Court’s Elder Law Task Force will tackle growing abuses to older Pennsylvanians

June 13, 2013

HARRISBURG – The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has formed an Elder Law Task Force, chaired by Justice Debra Todd, to study the growing problems involved in guardianship, abuse and neglect, and access to justice. The task force has been charged by Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille with recommending solutions that include court rules, legislation, education and best practices.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the “over-65 population” is now larger in terms of size and percentage of population than it has been in any previous census. Pennsylvania currently ranks fourth in the nation in percentage of people 65 and older. As of the 2010 census, almost 2 million Pennsylvanians – 15.4 percent of the state’s population – were over 65 and that number is projected to continue to increase substantially through the year 2020.

“The increased population of older Pennsylvanians has strained the resources of our courts and their ability to provide services to these individuals,” Chief Justice Castille said. “The needs of this growing population will continue for years to come, especially in regards to guardianships, elder abuse and access to justice. Now is the time to put in place solutions that will allow older Pennsylvanians to age without worries that they will be abused or their money will be taken.”

The task force is made up of 38 elder law experts including judges, lawyers and social workers. The task force will have three subcommittees, one devoted to appointment and qualifications of guardians and attorneys, a second on guardianship monitoring and data collection, and a third on elder abuse and powers of attorney. The work of the group will take approximately one year.

According to research funded by the National Institute of Justice, almost 11 percent of people ages 60 and older, or 5.7 million individuals, suffered from some form of abuse in 2009.

Full Article and Source:
Supreme Court’s Elder Law Task Force will tackle growing abuses to older Pennsylvanians

Suspended PA District Judge Kelly Ballentine Must Pay Back Part of Her Salary

June 7, 2013

Suspended District Judge Kelly Ballentine must surrender her past 3 1/2-months’ pay while she awaits a final disciplinary decision from a state board.

[The] state Court of Judicial Discipline suspended Ballentine without pay, retroactive to Feb. 11. She pleaded guilty to fixing her own parking tickets Feb. 1 and a petition was filed for her suspension 10 days later.

The Court of Judicial Discipline will make a final ruling on Ballentine’s standing as judge at a later date. For now, she is suspended without pay, according to the order filed. That means she must pay back what amounts to 27 percent of her annual salary: approximately $22,500.

She also must repay retirement and Social Security funds accrued since Feb. 11, the order shows.

The repayment total is to be determined by June 7.

 Ballentine has until that date to work out a payment plan. Her medical benefits, however, aren’t affected by the latest ruling; she’ll continue receiving those.

Ballentine has the option of appealing to the state Supreme Court.

Full Article and Source:
Suspended District Judge Must Pay Back Part of Her Salary

See Also:
PA District Judge Violated Integrity and Impartiality of Office, Board Says

PA District Judge’s Pay Reinstated Amidst Ticket Fixing Probe

June 6, 2013

Magisterial District Judge Mark A. Bruno won a decision in court to have his judicial pay reinstated while he awaits trial in federal court on charges that he illegally helped fix a traffic ticket in Philadelphia.

The state’s Court of Judicial Discipline on May 24 ruled that the state Supreme Court had not properly looked at the full circumstances surrounding the government’s case against Bruno when it ordered his pay suspended following his indictment in January.

“The conduct with which Judge Bruno is charged does not approximate the conduct of other cases of judicial misconduct in which the defendants’ pay was properly withheld,” the court ruled, “for in no way is it imbued with the gravity and the overt disdain for the law on display in those cases.”
Vincent DiFabio, one of Bruno’s defense attorneys, said Thursday that the judge’s pay would be restored retroactively from the tie the state Supreme Court suspended him in February. DiFabio said he and his client were in the process of going through tens of thousands of pages of discovery provided by the US. Attorney’s Office in the matter in preparation for trial, possibly in November.