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N.H. elder abuse law meant to protect elderly from exploitation by ‘people they trust’

Friday December 19th 2014
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Lawmakers and advocates are hopeful a new law set to take effect Jan. 1 will help protect the state’s elderly and disabled populations from financial exploitation.Each year nearly $3 billion is lost nationally through abuse of elderly victims, said Concord Rep. Katherine Rogers, a prime sponsor of the bill that Gov. Maggie Hassan signed this year.

The new law makes financial abuse of elderly, disabled or otherwise impaired adults a crime, and it will authorize law enforcement to investigate such activity when accusations are made.  “Prior to this, they would say it’s a family matter,” said Susan Staples, who coordinates an elder financial abuse community response team. “With the new statute, it’s easier to investigate and prosecute.”

The law isn’t geared toward scams, Staples said, but rather financial abuse committed by a family member, caretaker or a person known by the victim, which makes up two-thirds of this type of crime. “We’re concerned about exploitation by people they trust,” Staples said.Officials warned that financial abuse picks up during this time of year, and they urged people to contact their banks or financial advisors if they suspect any crime is being committed.

This article was written for and published in the Concord Monitor.

Guilty plea in scam that left World War II veteran homeless in South Phila

Wednesday December 17th 2014
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Ray White, a 90-year-old World War II veteran, was left homeless after befriending a con man who systematically scammed him out of his South Philadelphia house, vintage Bentley and Cadillac, and everything else he valued.

On Tuesday, 61-year-old Melvin McIlwaine pleaded guilty to cheating White of his worldly possessions, clearing the way for the retiree who served in the Battle of the Bulge to put his life back together.

The guilty plea came at “the eleventh hour,” just as jury selection was about to begin for McIlwaine’s criminal fraud trial, said Assistant District Attorney Deborah Cooper Nixon.

McIlwaine was able to delay his trial by complaining about illnesses that Nixon said were just a continuation of his deceptions. This was McIlwaine’s last opportunity to plead guilty.

“When it was time to face the music, there was nobody to con except the judge and jury,” Nixon said. “He wasn’t prepared to do that.”

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Northampton County district attorney throws support behind elder abuse task force

Wednesday December 17th 2014
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When asked whether he would help out with a Northampton County task force on elder abuse, John Morganelli thought of the victims of Richard Freer.

“Millions of dollars were taken from a number of senior citizens who had trusted their financial advisor,” he said at a news conference Tuesday.

Morganelli said he will help create the task force after being asked by Northampton County Area Agency on Aging Director John Mehler.

“The goal of such a task force would be to establish priorities that would effectively protect older adults from exploitation,” he said.

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Brooklyn Man Charged in Phone Fraud That Targeted Elderly People

Thursday December 11th 2014
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The calls to the grandparents last year usually began the same way. First, someone identifying himself as a state trooper, a sergeant or a lawyer, would get on the line suggesting that a child or grandchild had been arrested and jailed on a drug offense. The grandparent would then be asked to send bail money immediately so that the grandchild could be released. Sometimes, the grandparent would hear another voice — the purported grandchild on the line, crying and pleading with the grandparent to send money and not tell other relatives, federal prosecutors said.

One victim, 87, in the Bronx, after hearing the tearful voice of what sounded like a granddaughter, sent $12,250 before learning from the actual granddaughter that she had never been arrested and knew nothing about any request for bail money, according to a federal complaint.

The authorities said 17 elderly victims in California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, Texas and Washington had been defrauded of more than $170,000. Read more »

From dignity to death

Thursday December 4th 2014
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HOW Prane Paciunas must have suffered in the last months of her life.

Not just from the pain of deep, maggot-infested bedsores. Not just from the agony of starvation. But from the absolute betrayal of Jean Marie Dombrowski, 48, the woman she’d trusted to care for her.

The more I learn about the simple, gracious and dignified life of Paciunas, 89, the more her death breaks my heart. At least she did not succumb in squalor, ignored by the human animals who walked around her as she rotted on a filthy mattress on her living-room floor. At least she succumbed in a warm, clean bed in the ICU of Aria Health’s Frankford hospital, tended by staff who cared.

I hope some part of her was aware enough to know that she’d been rescued, even if she could not be saved. I hope that gave her peace.

Read more »

Authorities investigate E. Frankford case of elder abuse

Tuesday November 25th 2014
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PHILADELPHIA – The live-in caregiver of an elderly East Frankford woman was being held on assault charges after the woman in her care was found starving, covered in filth, and suffering from festering, maggot-infested sores.

She later died in what city prosecutors Monday called one of the most horrific cases of elder abuse their office has ever seen, and prosecutors are now weighing a murder charge.  Plane Paciunas, 89, died Nov. 15, about a week after she was found “barely alive” in her living room, wrapped in a quilt on a bed covered with trash bags, prosecutors said in an interview Monday.  A medic and police officers responding to the scene at first believed she was dead. She had open wounds, one so severe that a bone showed. One person at the scene compared her appearance to that of a “mummy.”

Police say her caregiver, Jean Dombrowski, 48, told detectives she hadn’t been providing for her charge’s basic needs – and she knew that was why Paciunas’ health was failing.  “The facts are truly sickening,” said Jennifer Selber, who heads the district attorney’s Homicide Unit. “This poor woman clearly suffered for a very long time under unspeakable conditions.”

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Police: Man bilked mom

Tuesday November 25th 2014
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DANVILLE – A borough man charged with stealing his mother’s Social Security and forging her life insurance policy totaling nearly $14,000 will face Montour County court action.   Stanley R. Phleger, Jr. waived his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday before District Judge Marvin Shrawder.

Mahoning Township police charged him with forgery, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, theft by deception, theft and misapplying entrusted government property from Grandview Health Homes.  Police said the Social Security payments totaled $10,299 and the life insurance policy amounted to $3,560.

When Phleger’s mother. Bonnie Phleger, 74, was admitted to Grandview, her son assumed financial responsibility for her because she and her hudnabd were estranged, Cpl. Chad Thomas said. Stanley Jr. signed a financial responsibility form agreeing to direct her income, mainly from Social Security, to the nursing home for her care.  Thomas said Lacey Temple, of the Columbia-Montour Aging Office, told him Mrs. Phleger, who was admitted on Jan 16, 2013, has Alzheimer’s disease.  According to the charges, Stanley Jr. failed to complete necessary paperwork to be submitted to medical assistance and Grandview.  Grandview contacted him several times but he failed to comply. Read more »

Erie-area man convicted of stealing from elderly woman

Monday November 24th 2014
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A 91-year-old woman’s dementia is so severe that she could not testify at the trial of a Wesleyville man accused of stealing $15,000 from her in 2012 and 2013.

The defendant, David Burrows, testified the woman knew what she was doing when she gave him power of attorney over her finances.

The jurors rejected Burrows’ argument. With the woman’s mental state as the main evidence, they convicted him Friday of six charges, including four counts of theft and a count of misapplication of entrusted property. The jury deliberated 90 minutes to end the three-day trial in Erie County Court. Burrows’ first trial ended in a mistrial in September in a dispute over evidence.

Burrows, 54, has a prior record for elder abuse. His past could come up at his sentencing, which Judge John Garhart set for Jan. 29. Burrows was sentenced in 2005 to six months to three years in state prison and two years of probation for neglecting an 85-year-old man he was supposed to have cared for, using $2,500 a month from the man. Authorities found the man emaciated and caked in his own waste while living in Burrows’ basement.

In the latest case, Assistant District Attorney Michael Burns argued that the woman, who turns 92 on Sunday and lives in a nursing home, lacked the mental capacity to give Burrows valid written power of attorney. A psychologist testified the woman suffers from delirium and dementia. And even had the power of attorney been valid, Burns said, Burrows improperly spent what was entrusted to him. “This defendant took advantage of a woman who was weak and vulnerable,” Burns said. He said he will ask that Burrows pay $15,000 in restitution. Read more »

Fighting for Lancaster County’s most “vulnerable” victims — the elderly and disabled

Monday November 24th 2014
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The elderly.
Adults and children with disabilities.
“I’m driven to protect the most vulnerable,” the 44-year-old mother of three said last week.
Often times, they are elderly widows or widowers duped of savings by a trusted confidant.
Or a mentally- or physically-disabled person victimized by someone close to them.
About 100 such cases have come into King’s office since she took over the county’s elder/care-dependent abuse unit last year.
And that number is expected to keep climbing as more seniors are living here and statewide.
“It’s an attractive county for them to retire to,” she said from her office at the county courthouse on North Duke Street. “We have such a growing population of elderly. We see more and more of these cases.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging estimates that 3.3 million seniors — roughly a quarter of the population — will be living in the state by 2020.
Logic, King said, points to a correlating increase in instances of abuse. Read more »

Supreme Court announces new measures to combat elder abuse

Thursday November 20th 2014
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Pennsylvania has the fourth largest population of senior citizens in the country – and that number is growing.

Come January they will have an office within the state court system dedicating to improving the response of the judiciary and government agencies to elder abuse and neglect.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said today it wil open an Office of Elder Justice in the Courts, which is one of 130 recommendations made by the court’s Elder Abuse Task Force.

In its 284-page report, the 38-member panel detailed a slew of recommendations to tackle issues in the courts and other government agencies involving guardianship, elder abuse and neglect and overall access to justice.  (Access report here)

“If societies are judged on how they help their most vulnerable, then now is the time to craft solutions as older Pennsylvanians increasingly face life-altering, physical, emotional and financial abuses by those who take advantage of our elders,” said Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille.

Task force chair Justice Debra Todd said it was imperative the state make changes to address the rapidly aging population.

“The increasing population of elders anticipated during the next 20 years is likely to result in a substantial increase in court cases regarding the protection of vulnerable elderly persons, including guardianship, elder abuse proceedings and other types of cases. This report is a blueprint on how the courts and others can tackle that challenge.”

There are nearly 2.7 million people (21.4 percent) of the population age 60 and older and by 2020 about 3.3 million residents are expected to be over 60.

Research suggests that one out of every 10 people 60 years and older who lives at home suffers abuse, neglect or exploitation and that 44 percent of nursing home residents report abuse or neglect,

Also approved was the creation of an Advisory Council on Elder Justice in the Courts, to serve as a liaison to the executive and legislative branches and to advise the Supreme Court.

Other recommendations include:

Distributing a “Bill of Rights of an Alleged Incapacitated Person” to inform alleged incapacitated persons, interested family members, concerned parties and guardians when a person is served with a petition for guardianship and at the time the person is adjudicated incapacitated.

Read more »

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