Archive for the ‘South Carolina’ Category

Probate judge, Horry County Sheriff’s Office issue warning of possible fraud

September 15, 2013

A probate judge contacted the Horry County Sheriff’s Office when she learned of a possible scam, said agency spokesman Jeff Benton.

A resident told Judge Deirdre Edmonds someone came to their door claiming to be with the Horry County Probate Court and asked about a recent death in the family. Benton said the intent of the suspect is not known, but Benton said suspects in events like this typically prey on vulnerable people to gain access to their home or defraud them of money.

Probate court handles administration of estates of deceased persons, Edmonds said, but will not solicit families of the deceased and court representatives would never be sent to a home or property to inquire about a death. The only time a someone from the probate court would visit a home is when a guardianship or conservatorship action has been filed in the court for an incapacitated adult who is unable to manage personal or financial affairs.

Full Article and Source:
Probate judge, Horry County Sheriff’s Office issue warning of possible fraud

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Suspended Florence lawyer indicted on federal charges

August 29, 2013

The United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina announced Wednesday that William Rivers, III of Florence has been charged in a three count indictment with Mail Fraud.

The indictment says between October 2006 to November 2012 Rivers and his late law partner John Schurlknight failed to tell clients when their cases had been settled and failed to pay the clients’ medical providers, but instead forged clients’ signatures on releases and kept all of the money received in the clients’ settlement.

Rivers and Schurlknight were partners at the Schurlknight and Rivers Law Firm in Florence, which is no longer in operation.

Rivers was suspended from practicing law by the South Carolina Supreme Court last December following complaints filed by former clients about missing money.

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Suspended Florence lawyer indicted on federal charges

101-Year-Old Man’s Alleged Abuse Adds To Medicaid Crisis

January 7, 2013

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. – Thursday afternoon Julie Johnston, the granddaughter of the alleged abuse victim, held a press conference where she released audio recordings of her grandfather’s claim.

In the recordings, you hear the 101-year-old man claim that Desmond Kimbrough, a former Mount Pleasant Manor employee sexually assaulted him.

“I said you’re killing me, you’re hurting me so bad. My back was hurting me so bad and he was having sex with me,” Johnston’s grandfather said.

Now Johnston says she’s having a hard time getting her grandfather out of Mount Pleasant Manor, where the abuse is said to have occurred.

A hidden camera caught a lot of the activity. All of the video has not yet been released to the media but an attorney for the family did show a few clips.

The video recorded just last week, over a 24-hour period ending on December 7 resulted in the arrest of Kimbrough. He was in bond court on Tuesday morning charged with Abuse of a Vulnerable Adult.

Full Article & Source:
101-Year-Old Man’s Alleged Abuse Adds To Medicaid Crisis

Linda Kincaid Reports: Elderly Woman Falsely Imprisoned by Johnston County, North Carolina

November 6, 2012

Eighty-year-old Gloria Bathgate found herself prisoner of a Johnston County, North Carolina guardianship just days after she arrived in the state. Gloria was falsely imprisoned and unlawfully isolated at Oakview Commons Assisted Living Center near Raleigh.

Gloria’s story is similar to the story of Hugh Johnson, victimized by a guardian in neighboring Wake County. Similar stories of guardian abuse in adjacent counties should raise concerns about oversight and accountability in the North Carolina guardianship system.

Gloria’s care at Oakview was dismal, just as Hugh’s care at Blue Ridge Nursing Home was dismal. Gloria had several falls in the first few days and many unexplained bruises. Denied any contact with her daughter, Gloria’s physical and mental condition declined rapidly.

Fall 2012
Susan’s tenacity in seeking help for her mother eventually led her to the Mayor’s office in Charleston, South Carolina. Janet Schumacher of the Mayor’s Office on Aging was the first government employee in two years to lend a sympathetic ear and take action to help. Bewildered as to why Gloria was under guardianship, the Office on Aging facilitated Gloria’s escape from Oakview Commons and Johnston County.

Schumacher connected Susan with individuals who arranged for Gloria’s transfer to a skilled nursing facility in South Carolina. Gloria arrived in terrible physical condition, debilitated and in severe need of medical care. But Gloria was finally free of the abusive facility and farther from Shannon West.

The nightmare continues, however. Shannon West and Johnston County DSS object to Susan filing complaints about the abuse and sharing Gloria’s story with the media. Almost daily, Johnston County DSS threatens Susan that they will again take her mother from her.

Hugh Johnson’s only escape from guardianship was death. He was so neglected and abused by guardian Cheryl Theriault of Raleigh-based Aging Family Services that he did not recover. Hugh’s daughter Ginny Johnson vows to tell his story so guardians are held accountable for abusing elders and destroying families.

Full Article and Source:
Elderly Woman Falsely Imprisoned by Johnston County, North Carolina

See Also:
Linda Kincaid Reports: North Carolina War Hero: Victim of Elder Abuse by North Carolina Guardian

Retiring probate judge arrested

August 24, 2012

Retiring Franklin County Probate Judge Eddie Fowler has been arrested and charged with sexual battery.

Franklin County Sheriff Stevie Thomas said case has been turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Fowler was reportedly taken into custody late Tuesday after an investigation by the GBI, according to GBI Agent in Charge Jim Fullington.

“On Monday, August 20th, we were requested by the Franklin County Sheriff’s department to look into allegations of sexual battery,” Fullington said. “On Tuesday evening, Mr. Fowler was taken into custody and charged with one count of sexual battery. He was later released on bond from the Franklin County Detention Center.”

Fullington said the charge is a misdemeanor offense, but the investigation is continuing.

Fowler’s arrest came the day voters elected his successor. Tuesday, Franklin County Deputy Assistant Sheriff Ken Eavenson won the post over challenger Jay Baskins. Eavenson, however, does not take office until Jan. 1.

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Retiring probate judge arrested

SC: Probate Court Backlog Causing Delays

February 11, 2012

http://vp.mgnetwork.net/viewer.swf?u=43e00e5e983e102faba2001ec92a4a0d&z=SPA&embed_player=1

Source:
Probate Court Backlog Causing Delays

Caregiver Charged With Stealing From Elderly Woman

July 26, 2011

A caregiver is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from an elderly resident.

According to an incident report obtained by News Channel 7, 32-year old Layla Jessica Davidson, of Spartanburg, was arrested and charged with financial transaction card theft, financial credit card fraud greater than $500 and exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

The report states that a man told deputies that his mother’s caretaker, Davidson, used his mother’s debit card and wrote 13 checks belonging to his mother between May 2 and June 8. The man told authorities that between $6,000 and $7,000 had been taken from his mother.

Davidson was arrested and later released from the Spartanburg County Detention Center on $15,000 bond.

Full Artice and Source:
Caregiver Arrested Charged With Stealing From Elderly Woman

>Probate Series Wins Reporting Award

April 21, 2011

>Doug Pardue, The Post and Courier’s watchdog and special-assignments editor, has won the 2010 Taylor/Tomlin Award for investigative reporting for a series he wrote last year on how the probate court system can victimize vulnerable adults.

The series, “The Price of Living,” revealed how the probate court, which is supposed to protect the incapacitated elderly from abuse and financial exploitation, can turn against them. The stories, which ran on Nov. 28 and 29, detailed how the court can empty an elderly person’s life savings through court-approved fees for lawyers, guardians and conservators.

A week after the newspaper’s series ran, Jean Toal, the chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court, which oversees the state’s courts, characterized the reporting as “thoughtful and powerful.”

She said the newspaper’s “excellent research has given me much to ponder. I will be taking action to move this issue forward.” Toal has not revealed what that action will be.

While the series was being reported, the Charleston County Probate Court also began limiting fees.

The Taylor/Tomlin judges called the series “a classic example of excellent investigative reporting by a reporter who used all of the tools of his trade — energy, doggedness, documents and personal contacts — to shed light on the plight of elderly citizens in the probate court system.”

The judges said the series also accomplished two important criteria for the award — it heightened public awareness and performed a public service by causing beneficial change.

The award was presented [4/13/11] during a ceremony at the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication, which administers the news competition.

Source:
Series on Probate Court Wins Reporting Award

See Also:
The Price of Living

>Probate Court to Limit Fees Paid to Lawyers, Guardians

February 28, 2011

>The Berkeley County Probate Court has joined Charleston County in an effort to limit court-approved fees that can drain the estates of incapacitated elderly persons taken under the court’s protection.

Keith W. Kornahrens, chief judge of the Berkeley County Probate Court, said he is going to go along with the fee restrictions set in place last year by the Charleston County Probate Court.

“I do think guardian fees are too high, even at the reduced rate,” Kornahrens said.

He said he will issue an order this week limiting the fees for lawyers and guardians who handle cases involving incapacitated adults. He said he would adopt the same limitations issued last year by Irvin G. Condon, Charleston’s chief probate judge.

In Dorchester County, Chief Probate Judge Mary Blunt said she will take a look at what Charleston and Berkeley counties have done because “it’s nice when counties get in line.” But, she said, she doesn’t know if there is really any point because her court rarely uses professional guardians, preferring instead to search as hard as necessary to find a relative, friend or someone else to serve in that position. And that service generally is for free.

In addition, she said, the Dorchester County Probate Court has long limited attorneys in incapacitated adult cases to fees of no more than $125 an hour, half of what many normally charge. She said she views it as a form of community service for many of the elderly people who find themselves before the court and have little income or savings.

Condon limited certain fees after The Post and Courier’s Watchdog began a review of court-approved charges made by lawyers, guardians and conservators, and questioned him about the rationale for some of them. Watchdog revealed in a series called “The Price of Living” that the Probate Court, which is supposed to protect vulnerable adults from financial exploitation, approved fees that in many cases drained tens of thousands of dollars a year from some of the adult wards’ savings, leaving them broke within a year or two.

In [one] case, the Probate Court approved a guardian’s $100-per-hour fee for taking his elderly ward a birthday card and flowers.

Shortly after that series ran in November, Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal told the newspaper, “I will be taking action to move this issue forward.”

Rosalyn W. Frierson, director of Court Administration for the Supreme Court, said the high court probably wouldn’t take any unilateral action until after they receive a report from a working group on the guardian issue. That working group has not been named at this time.

Frierson said she did not know if any other probate courts had limited fees other than those in Charleston and Berkeley counties.

Kornahrens’ order will:
–Limit attorneys to no more than $200 an hour. Some had been charging as much as $270.
–Guardians will be placed on a scale of $45 an hour to $75 an hour based on experience and training. Some previously charged as much as $140 an hour.
–Certified professional guardians will be allowed to charge $80 an hour. Some higher or lower charges might be allowed at the court’s discretion.

Full Article & Source:
Probate Court to Limit Fees Paid to Lawyers, Guardians

See Also:
The Price of Living

Is System Draining Our Seniors’ Assets?

>South Carolina: Is System Draining Our Seniors Assets?

December 3, 2010

>The Charleston County Probate Court appointed a guardian and a conservator to take care of Virginia Manos in 2004 because of reports that the 89-year-old woman who lived alone couldn’t take care of herself and might be exploited.

Over the next four years, until she died in July 2008, the court approved spending $150,000 of her available money on lawyer, guardian, conservator and court fees — almost one out of every four dollars spent for her care.

Manos’ case is not alone. It is among many in which the Probate Court, set up to protect incapacitated elderly people from neglect, abuse or financial exploitation, allows lawyers, guardians and conservators to profit off helpless elderly wards.

Lucia Morfesis does not understand how it all happened.

She is her mother’s only child, but they were not close. “I loved my mother deeply,” Lucia said, but a barrier existed between them that she could not penetrate despite her efforts.

Her mother, Virginia Manos, lived alone on Folly Beach in a house one block from the ocean. As Manos’ health faded in 2003, her daughter did not realize anything was wrong other than the typical pains that inflict an 89-year-old woman.

In early 2004, Folly Beach police learned that she could barely walk without assistance, couldn’t maintain her house and showed confusion. They contacted Charleston Elder Support, which then petitioned the County Probate Court to declare her incapacitated. The court appointed a conservator and a guardian, who placed her in an assisted living home.

Morfesis said she would have taken over her mother’s care, but she never realized the court might give her that option. “It was never explained to me.”

Her mother would live four more years, during which the conservator sold her beach home for more than $700,000 to get money for her care.

When she died in July, 2008, the $700,000 from her house was down to $266,000. More than $150,000 of her money had gone to pay for lawyers, guardians, conservators and court fees.

“We have been crying over this for years. It is horrible,” Lucia Morfesis said.

The case of Lee Belle Murray stands out. At a recent hearing, five attorneys debated her future while their fee clocks ticked on. Three attorneys sat on one side of the courtroom, one each to represent Elder Support, the conservator and Lee Belle Murray. Also in the courtroom sat Murray’s present and her former guardians, one of whom is a lawyer.

The five charge fees ranging from $75 an hour to $175 an hour. Over the day-long hearing, they could easily rack up combined fees in excess of $5,000 — most of it billed to Murray’s estate.

The hearing was called because Murray’s daughter, Ellen, thought the Court overreacted in 2008 when it appointed a guardian for her mother.

Ellen Murray argued that the court had no real reason to remove her mother from her care. And she contended that the court-appointed guardian had unnecessarily taken her mother from her home and placed her in a costly nursing home where the guardian restricted her visits with her mother.

In a June 15 e-mail, the guardian told Ellen Murray, “You may visit once a week in my company for one hour.”

Full Article and Source:
Is System Draining Our Seniors Assets?