Any Charges Reported on this blog are Merely Accusations and the Defendants are Presumed Innocent Unless and Until Proven Guilty, through the courts.

September 9, 2013

Sweetheart Swindle - Case of Elder Abuse

Sep 7, 2013


This is a story that may hit close to home for a lot of you, especially for anyone dealing with an aging parent.
While trying to help them maintain their dignity and independence, sometimes your worst fears could come true. It did for Lynn Chandley.
"This was not someone the family knew. This was not a family friend! This was a stranger to our family," Lynn Chandley exclaimed angrily, as she described the woman who, she claims, took advantage of her ailing father.
In 2011, Lynn's father, Donn Henson, passed away, just shy of his 83rd birthday. However, the family's struggle continued because of one woman - Deborah Martin, of Royston, Ga.
"She stumbled upon him at a restaurant she was working at in Toccoa," Chandley explained.
That was in 2006. Martin was 38 and Donn Henson was in his late 70's.  Around that same time, he'd been diagnosed with dementia, most probably due to Alzheimer's disease.
"And it was fairly easy to put a target on his back, little man, slow, hard of hearing, comes in, has a barbecue sandwich by himself," Chandley explained.
That's when Chandley says Deborah Martin pounced and took advantage of the situation. Over the course of two and a half years unbeknownst to the family, Martin was making regular visits to see Donn Henson.  However, it wasn't until his family was transitioning him to an assisted care facility that they noticed irregularities with his bank statements.
"All these thousands of dollars that had been debited out of his account and the one thing we kept finding was the name Deborah Martin on some checks made to cash."
The family stepped in and put an end to the relationship and hired attorneys Tim Healy and Justin Berelc.
"I call it the Sweetheart Swindler case but it's the Sweetheart Swindle," Healy said. He and his co-counsel spent the next 4 years putting together a case and putting it before a jury.
The suit accused Deborah Martin of Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Conversion of Property and Fraud, by exploitation and sexual manipulation of Donn Henson to take his money.  The attorneys discovered, as the Alzheimer's had progressed, the amount of money going to Martin increased.
"We calculated about $53,000 over a period of nearly 3 years," Healy explained, as he showed 11Alive News the ledger.
"She had layers and layers of lies to try to justify what she had done,"Chandley said.
She says Martin claimed that she was taking care of Henson, doing chores, sweeping the porch, and bringing over fruit baskets.
The family didn't believe it and neither did the jury.  Especially after they were presented with nude photos, developed from a disposable camera found in Donn Henson's home.
There was a nude photo of a woman putting a towel over her face.  Another of the same woman using a pillow to disguise her identity.  Martin would not admit they were of her. However, she couldn't hide from the identifying marks, like distinctive, tattoos.
"I told the jury it was one of the tools in her toolbox," Healy said. "She used her feminine wiles to encourage this vulnerable old man suffering Alzheimer's dementia to do her bidding."
That's why late one afternoon in August we knocked on Deborah Martin's door to talk with her. She wasn't home.  We waited. Later that same afternoon she pulled up to get her mail from the box on the street.
"Are you Deborah Martin?" I asked, getting out of our vehicle to talk with her.
"I am," she said but immediately upon seeing our camera she headed straight for her SUV, got inside, closed the door and proceeded to drive away.
However, she couldn't escape the verdict. On August 15, 2013, nearly two years after Donn Henson had been laid to rest, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff on all counts. It was a 70 thousand dollar verdict - including 10 thousand dollars in punitive damages.
"Very gratifying," Healy responded, because unlike many other states, Georgia does not have a 'Sweetheart Swindle' law and the Chandley's had no road map to follow.
"We've got to make a statement for other families,"Chandley said.
They are now looking for a Georgia lawmaker who take notice and help to bring about change to help other families.
We contacted Deborah Martin's attorney, Bruce Harkness, for comment.
"I'm not going to be doing any post judgment work," Harkness said, "I've turned her file over to her."
We don't know if Martin is planning to appeal.

SOURCE:        11ALIVE
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Suspect Defrauded Elderly Woman

September 7,
By Kristopher Anderson/News-Sentinel Staff Writer 

Lodi police arrested a 48-year-old woman on Thursday on suspicion of stealing more than $20,000 over the course of at least a year from an elderly woman, authorities said.
Lisa Serpico was taken into custody at her home on the 3300 block of Spiess Road in Acampo around 8:30 a.m. She will be arraigned on a felony charge of stealing more than $400 from an elderly or dependent adult in San Joaquin County Superior Court on Monday.
Lodi police detectives have been investigating the theft since June, after the victim’s daughter reported the incident to police, Lodi Police Sgt. Eric Versteeg said.
According to Versteeg, Serpico befriended a 90-year-old woman and offered her rides to the grocery store, doctor appointments and other locations. However, Serpico was never hired as a caregiver.
“She was helping with the day-to-day business,” Versteeg said.
For nearly a year, Lodi Police Lt. David Griffin said, Serpico used multiple tactics to withdraw funds from the victim’s account, including using ATM machines after obtaining the victim’s debit card to purchase groceries.
The victim’s daughter heard that someone had been assisting her mother on a regular basis. She became suspicious about Serpico’s relationship with her mother and began checking bank accounts and check statements, Versteeg said.
In August, nearly three weeks before her arrest, Serpico went with her attorney to the Lodi Police Department for a voluntary interview.
In Lodi, theft from elderly residents is a frequently reported crime.
“I don’t want to say we have a huge problem, but does happen on a regular basis,” Versteeg said.
Lodi police receive numerous complaints each year about caregivers or acquaintances taking advantage of elders with scams, theft or financial abuse.
It comes in several disguises, Versteeg said.
He cited a case in Lodi several years ago where police said individuals were purposely performing inexpensive and substandard work on an elderly person’s home. When the project was complete, they demanded excessive amounts of money for their work, officers said. The workers in that case eventually defrauded the elderly person out of thousands of dollars, Versteeg said.
Versteeg said there are ways for elderly people to avoid scams and fraud.
“Family and caregivers need to be cognizant of what’s going on,” he said. “They need to take an active role in that person’s care.”

SOURCE:        The Lodi News
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Florida's Neglected Elderly Deserve Better

Scott Maxwell
September 7, 2013

Florida bills itself as a haven for retirees.
Come on down! Bring your pension! Leave your kids! Life is always pleasant in the Sunshine State!
Well, except when your rest-home assistant leaves you festering in your own waste.
Or without your medicine.
Or dead.
Stories like those were common a couple of years ago — everything from a 71-year-old man with schizophreniawho died from scalding water in a bathtub to a 75-year-old retired priest whose body was found ripped apart by alligators after he was allowed to wander off unsupervised.
With elderly residents dying nearly once a month from abuse and neglect, Florida politicians vowed to crack down.
I'm not sure it was the humanity they were worried about as much as the economy. A growing corpse count was bad for the retirement business.
Only the reform never really came. A task force yielded few concrete changes. And now, the state agency charged with checking on neglected elderly residents is a mess.
The head of the program abruptly retired. Another top official resigned. An internal investigation is underway.
"It's no better than it was before," said Brian Lee, the head of a national nonprofit, Families for Better Care. "We never got the reform. It was a charade."
If Lee sounds indignant, he has good reason. He used to run Florida's elderly watchdog program — for both Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist — until Gov. Rick Scott forced him out in early 2011.
At the time, Lee's army of volunteer ombudsmen — trained citizens who made both surprise and resident-requested visits to facilities — had a 98 percent satisfaction rating from the residents and families they served.
But Lee's dogged approach — particularly his efforts to highlight facilities that put profits over safety — made him unpopular with the industry.
So Scott ousted him — a move that investigators with the U.S. Administration on Aging said was meant "to stop Mr. Lee from carrying out his duties" — and replaced him with a more industry-friendly leader.
Then things got worse.
Legislators began talking about making it harder for the volunteer watchdogs to do their jobs, and they lowered the minimum number of hours of care that homes must provide.
Our mothers, fathers and grandparents deserve better.
Not because retirement is big business in Florida — but because it's simply the right thing to do.
I'm not sure everyone agrees. Recently, the state's ombudsman program sent out a blistering news release, saying all the negative press about the program was unfair to the hardworking volunteers.
It called the problems "imagined" and the concerns "misrepresentations."
Let's be clear. There's nothing imagined about the recent resignations, the ongoing investigation or the efforts to weaken safeguards.
And I've never doubted the commitment of the volunteers. It's the politicians and some of the bureaucrats who worry me.
Elderly residents — especially those who don't have family nearby to check on them regularly — deserve vigilant watchdogs with the power to protect them.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Scott said he agrees — that the governor "is committed to protecting Florida's elderly community and believes the ombudsman program provides important protections for those living in long-term care facilities."
If he truly believes that, he has an opportunity to prove it — by appointing a new, permanent lead ombudsman who won't cower to anyone, whose only interest is protecting vulnerable elderly citizens who can't protect themselves.
He could even make a pitch to bring Lee back. That would speak volumes about serious commitment.
Reputable facilities — which constitute the majority of Florida's homes — would have nothing to fear. They should welcome high standards, unannounced visits and vigilant watchdogs.
It's only the shoddy ones — where residents go unfed and unmedicated, where roaches have been spotted in pantries and where hair has gone unwashed for weeks — that would object.
And who in their right mind, or of pure heart, would ever cater to them?

SOURCE:        The Orlando Sentinel
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Man Scammed Elderly Dementia Patient Of At Least $50,000

By Keith Eldridge
Sep 6, 2013


An 86-year-old woman diagnosed with dementia was scammed out of $50,000 dollars by a man who claimed to be a landscaper, and the woman isn't the only one to be fooled, prosecutors say.

Dayton Dixon came to Midred Zolman's door in late 2011, offering his landscaping services. The elderly woman lives by herself in a modest home in Tacoma's Proctor district.

"He never really did any work to speak of," Zolman says. "He might have gone around the lawn once or something like that, and that was the extent of it."

Zolman's son recently was appointed power-of-attorney for his mother after she had surgery, and noticed his mother had written several large checks to "Dayton's Landscaping" over the course of a year.

Court documents show Dixon cashed Zolman's checks for thousands of dollars, but having been diagnosed with dementia, Zolman has no memory of it.

Zolman wrote checks that grew in sums of $3,335, $4,700, $7,900, $8,000, and $8,600 a month. Investigators say Zolman's yard is standard with no extravagant landscaping, and determined it would cost approximately $3,000 annually for upkeep.

The man continued bilking Zolman until she was left with only one dollar in her account, according to prosecutors.

"How could I not remember all of that?" Zolman questions. "I can't believe I was that stupid."

Dixon pleaded not guilty to nine counts of theft for stealing $57,000 from Zolman and another 73-year-old woman.

"They're just easy targets," Deputy Prosecutor Erika Nohavoc says. "Oftentimes with significant memory loss, and just don't have the cognitive ability to understand what they're doing."

Nohavoc says it's a possibility for Dixon to end up in prison with the severity of the charges involving such a vulnerable segment of the population.

"Our new Elder Abuse team aggressively prosecutes those who exploit some of our most vulnerable victims," said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

Dixon is being held in jail on a $50,000 bail.

SOURCE:         The Komo News
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New Legislation Will Protect Older Adults In North Carolina From Fraud

New legislation will protect older adults in North Carolina from fraud
Sep. 07, 2013
By Mebane Rash, guest columnist

Although schemes to rip off unsuspecting seniors are not new, what is new is the growing population of older adults in North Carolina, the increased sophistication of scams using the Internet and the international scope of this crime.
These scams take place statewide.  For example, in Durham County, an unlicensed securities trader was charged with encouraging older adults to roll over their retirement funds into his care, which he then invested in businesses.  In Orange County, an older adult received an email as part of a scam claiming that there was a problem with his online checking account.  The email asked him to provide personal financial information and passwords to sensitive accounts.  He did, and he became a victim of fraud and identity theft.
Scammers do not discriminate, targeting elders of all socio-economic brackets, all races, both male and female.  Some risk factors include being homebound, having memory impairments, possessing assets that are easily converted to cash and the expectation that often seniors are just more polite.
The stories of fraud against the elderly across this state are rampant and appalling.  It is even more tragic when the fraud is carried out by relatives, family friends or caregivers.
The most recent data from the Federal Trade Commission shows North Carolina already ranks 24th among the 50 states in the number of fraud complaints per capita and 23rd in the number of identity theft complaints per capita.  The Federal Trade Commission says that people over 50 account for almost one-half of all consumer fraud complaints, and more than a third of all identify theft complaints.  These figures are likely to go up quickly as the huge baby boom generation started turning 65 in 2011.  By 2020, 820,000 more baby boomers will turn 65 in North Carolina, so that’s 820,000 more targets for scammers.  In 2012, the FTC listed Durham as a hot spot for consumer fraud complaints.  The N.C. Center for Public Policy Research conducted research on this important issue and made recommendations to the legislature.
To combat this crime, Senator Stan Bingham, R-Davidson, sponsored Senate Bill 140 (signed into law by Gove. Pat McCrory as Session Law 2013-337) to protect against the financial exploitation of older adults.  Representative Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke, shepherded the bill through the House.  The bill passed the Senate 47-0 and the House 111-1.  This legislation will increase the recognition of fraud committed against the elderly and work to prevent it, increase reporting when fraud is suspected, and increase the prosecution of those who would defraud or financially exploit the elderly.  It also continues the work of the Task Force on Fraud Against Older Adults, co-chaired by Senator Bingham and Representative Blackwell.

SOURCE:         The Herald Sun
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September 5, 2013

Warning to Elderly On Financial Abuse (AUSTRALIA)

September 1, 2013
By Andrea Petrie

She was in her late 80s, frail and no longer able to maintain the home she and her late husband had built and in which they had raised their three children. So when her son suggested she sell up, give him the proceeds and move in with his family for the rest of her days, it seemed like an ideal solution.

Then their relationship soured and so, too, did his promise to provide lifelong care. And he refused to hand back any of the hundreds of thousands of dollars she had given him so she could find somewhere else to live.
Scenarios like this are becoming more common, according to Seniors Rights Victoria manager Jenny Blakey. Of all the cases her organisation handled in the 2012-13 financial year, 678 related to elder financial abuse, when someone known and trusted by an older person took advantage of them for financial gain.
''Financial abuse is one of the most common types of elder abuse that we see, making up for about 40 per cent of cases," Ms Blakey said.
"It's increasing, too, just by virtue of the fact that the population is ageing and because most elderly people are wealthier in terms of owning their homes and having more assets than earlier generations.''
She said that because it was getting harder for younger people to afford homes of their own, and many were facing other financial difficulties, some people wanted access to the wealth of older people in their lives now, rather than waiting for a possible inheritance.

The exchange of assets in return for care, for example, had the potential to get particularly complicated, she said.
''For most families it's a good arrangement and it works well because most families really do care for one another and look out for each other's interests as best they can,'' she said. ''And it can be done with good intentions, but things can and do go wrong for various reasons and those are the cases we tend to see.''
In some cases, elderly people have moved in with their children and clashed with their son or daughter, or their son or daughter's partner or children, Ms Blakey said.
Problems have also arisen in instances where money has been lent in exchange for care and when the arrangement has not worked out and the elderly person wanted to leave, they struggled to get their money back. Because they might have signed over power of attorney, some elderly people believe there is nothing they can do.

''There's been situations where money from the older person has been gambled away and they only realised when the bank seized the home of the person who has been caring for them, where they were also living, so they've ended up in their late 80s or early 90s homeless,'' Ms Blakey said.
And with divorce relatively common these days, many older people have had to demonstrate their claim on properties belonging to one of their adult children, where they have been living, if the house has to be sold or formed part of a financial settlement. A booklet created by Seniors Rights Victoria, Care for your assets: money, ageing and family, provides advice on the possible personal and legal outcomes of various scenarios, including for anyone considering selling their home and giving the money to someone who has agreed to care for them, or who is moving in with a relative.
■For more information visit seniorsrights.org.au or call 1300 368 821.

SOURCE:       The Brisbane Times, au
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Elder Abuse Case restarts Because First Jury Couldn't Reach Verdict

 Aug. 30, 2013

The case against an ex-nursing home worker charged with felony elder abuse will restart after a two-day trial resulted in a hung jury.

Heather Lynn Laird, 36, was accused of pulling a 76-year-old woman’s hair, holding her down and forcing her to take a cup of pills at a Dell Rapids nursing home on Nov. 3. She was also accused of grabbing and pushing on the woman’s breast.

Her public defender told jurors that there was no solid proof the late-night encounter involved violence or that the bruising on the victim’s chest were the result of abuse, as opposed to a fall. The victim didn’t scream, and her roommate didn’t recall the encounter.
After deliberating six hours on Wednesday evening, jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict of guilt or acquittal.

Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Aaron McGowan said the case will restart, possibly resulting in a second jury trial.
Laird was charged with one count of abuse or neglect of an elderly adult. The charge carries a possible two-year prison sentence

SOURCE:         The Argus Leader

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Spotting Elder Financial Abuse

Spotting Elder Financial Abuse

A Wells Fargo client in California thought he had hit the jackpot. The 78-year-old husband and father was contacted by people claiming to be from the Costa Rican lottery. They told him he had just won $5 million. But before he could collect the proceeds, there were a few formalities. They first needed some personal information to confirm his identity. And they also needed money to pay off various taxes and fees associated with the winnings.

Although elderly, the client was "all there," according to Ronald Long, director of regulatory affairs at Wells Fargo Advisors and one of the leaders of the firm's elder financial abuse prevention efforts. But there were circumstances in the client's life that made him susceptible to the scam. His 76-year-old wife was in poor health and bedridden. The costs of her treatment were considerable and a continual source of stress. "The thought that he had the chance to get more money to make their lives easier was attractive to him," Long says. "And these people fed on it."

The client supplied the scam artists with his wife's personal information, including her Social Security number. He also sent them $88,000. But they needed more. To transfer the $5 million, the scammers told the client they required one last payment of $50,000. The client did not have the money on hand, so he called his Wells Fargo financial advisor and requested that the funds be moved from his Wells Fargo accounts.
The advisor immediately knew something was wrong, Long recalls. Although it was too late to save the initial $88,000, which had been in non-Wells Fargo accounts, the advisor wasn't going to let the scam proceed any further and refused to go forward with the transfer. With the client convinced that he was one transaction away from $5 million, some testy and stressful exchanges followed. "It's a struggle for a firm like us to have to look a client in the eye and say we can't allow you to have this money," Long says.

So Wells Fargo turned to the client's family, persuading his daughter to get involved. Once she was engaged in the process, the client relented. "We kept the $50,000 from going out," Long says. For the team at Wells Fargo, the incident counted as a small victory in its ongoing battle against elder financial abuse.

About seven million Americans over the age of 65—one in five—have been victimized by financial scams, a 2010 report by Investor Protection Trust found. In 2010, the annual losses by victims of elder financial abuse was estimated at $2.9 billion, up 12% from 2008, according to a MetLife study. Yet a 2011 report by the New York City Department for the Aging found that only one in 44 cases of elder financial abuse is ever reported.


SOURCE:        OnWallStreet
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Any Charges Reported on this blog are Merely Accusations and the Defendants are Presumed Innocent Unless and Until Proven Guilty.

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