Mount Carmel man withdraws elder abuse no contest plea

Monday April 27th 2015
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SUNBURY – A Mount Carmel man, who previously pleaded no contest to three criminal charges for neglecting his elderly mother and forging her pension checks totaling more than $1,150, withdrew his plea Monday morning because he claims he’s innocent of the offenses.

Joseph Francis Campbell, 57, who was scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Charles Saylor on felonies of neglect of a care-dependent person and forgery, and a misdemeanor of recklessly endangering another person, will now face a hearing to determine if Saylor will accept the withdrawal of his plea.

Campbell’s public defender Paige Rosini told the judge, “Mr. Campbell is asserting his innocence in this matter and is withdrawing his plea.”

Saylor instructed Rosini to file a motion to withdraw her client’s plea. He said a hearing will be scheduled where the defense can argue its reasons for withdrawal and the commonwealth can oppose it by showing substantial prejudice would be created by the move.

On Jan. 13, which was the same day a jury was being selected for his scheduled Jan. 29 trial, Campbell pleaded no contest to the charges.

Additional charges were scheduled not to be prosecuted under a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office.

At that time, Saylor ordered a pre-sentence investigation and proposed a sentence of 22 to 44 months in a state correctional institution followed by probation.

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Is Harper Lee killing her own Mockingbird?

Monday April 6th 2015
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In February, the internationally acclaimed novelist Harper Lee surprised the world with news that in July, HarperCollins will publish her second novel, Go Set a Watchman. The publisher unveiled the cover two weeks ago. Written before her masterwork To Kill a Mockingbird, this one had been buried in a drawer for decades.

Long ago, the author, certain that Mockingbird was her first and last work, decided that Watchman should not be published. Fifty years later, she changed her mind.

Some wonder, though, whether Lee is yet another older adult who’s a victim of fraud and abuse. The state of Alabama is investigating. Lee is 88 and resides in an assisted-living facility. Friends say she suffers from memory, hearing, and vision loss. Her day-to-day affairs are supervised by the same lawyer who discovered the long-lost novel and negotiated its publication.

How would we know that Lee was capable of making the decision to publish a novel she long ago swore not to publish?

Cases such as hers are an immense public-health problem. Changes in older adults’ cognition and need for help with daily tasks, together with accumulated lifetime wealth, make them easy prey for those who want to exploit or abuse them. And if they lose their wealth, they have limited, if any, ability to start over and recover their losses. As a result, family or the state need to step in and pay.

This case is somewhat atypical. Publishing Watchman will in fact add to Lee’s already-substantial wealth (sales of Mockingbird earn her about $9,000 a day). But her case highlights an even more disturbing feature of elder abuse. It harms the person’s dignity and sullies the denouement of lives otherwise well-lived and self-determined.

For Lee, publishing Watchman will reshape her carefully lived legacy. Is she, in some sense, mistakenly killing her own mockingbird?

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Sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing from elderly clients

Thursday March 26th 2015
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A Northfield (NJ) attorney who used her work with elderly clients to bilk them out of millions was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday.

“I and I alone allowed this to happen,” Barbara Lieberman told the judge before being sentenced. “I alone put my law license and the integrity of the legal profession at risk. I’m fully to blame here, your honor.”

Lieberman, 63, must serve at least 3½ years in prison before she is eligible for parole under a plea agreement. She also forfeited $3 million in restitution and an additional $1.4 million in taxes, penalties and other fees. She lost her license as well.

The case began when the Office of the Guardian came forward about a woman they believed was being financially exploited, State Police Sgt. Richard Wheeler explained.

“She was feisty,” Wheeler said of the victim, Irma Schwarzberg, 93, who was living in a senior facility in Cape May Court House. Schwarzberg, who died at 94, lost $112,000.

Wheeler and Deputy Attorney General Yvonne Maher combed through bank records and reams of paperwork for 2½ years to tie together a case that ended up with 17 named victims defrauded of nearly $3.9 million, allegedly split among Lieberman and four others who were all recently indicted in the case.

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FINRA Foundation Research Reveals Fraud Victims Vulnerable to Severe Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Friday March 20th 2015
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News Release

 WASHINGTON — The FINRA Investor Education Foundation issued a new research report, Non-Traditional Costs of Financial Fraud, which found that nearly two thirds of self-reported financial fraud victims experienced at least one non-financial cost of fraud to a serious degree—including severe stress, anxiety, difficulty sleeping and depression. While the Stanford Financial Fraud Research Center estimates that $50 billion is lost to financial fraud every year, the FINRA Foundation’s innovative research examines the broader psychological and emotional impact of financial fraud.

“Fraud’s effects linger and cause distress well after the scam is over. For the first time, we have data on the deep toll that fraud exerts on its victims, and the results are sobering. This new research underscores the importance of the FINRA Foundation’s work with an array of national, state and local partners to help Americans avoid fraud, and assist consumers who have been defrauded,” said FINRA Foundation President Gerri Walsh. Read more »

Chambersburg woman sentenced for involuntary manslaughter of her mother

Thursday March 19th 2015
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CHAMBERSBURG >> A Franklin County judge asked a Chambersburg woman for a better understanding of how her mother died, but the woman was unable to provide any answers.

“The picture painted by the pre-sentence report, by the letters, by you … does not equal what happened in this case,” Franklin County Judge Jeremiah Zook told Linda R. Brown, 61, before sentencing her for involuntary manslaughter. “I will never understand that.”

Brown pleaded no contest on Feb. 5 to involuntary manslaughter in connection to the death of her mother. Zook sentenced Brown Wednesday morning to four to 23 months in Franklin County Jail, with an additional 37 months of probation after her release. She was also ordered to pay a $250 fine and is not eligible for early release. She will also be required to complete 250 hours of community service to benefit the elderly.

Brown was charged after an investigation into the care of her mother, Harriett Wolfe, who died two months after a home care nurse documented issues with Brown’s care of her mother, according to court documents. Wolfe had been in Brown’s care a majority of the time, where prosectors said she developed severe bed sores due to neglect.

According to court documents, starting on March 13, 2013 a Comfort Keepers nurse first reported her concerns about Wolfe’s bed sores and told Brown that Wolfe should be taken to the doctor.

The Franklin County Area Agency on Aging made a visit to Brown’s home on April 29, according to court documents. The investigator from the agency was not allowed to see Wolfe initially and had to return the next day. While there, the investigator advised Brown to take Wolfe to the emergency room. Read more »

Man who conned WWII vet gets long sentence

Tuesday March 17th 2015
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A South Philadelphia man accused of conning an octogenarian World War II veteran out of his home, personal property, and two vintage cars was found guilty of fraud Friday and sentenced to 71/4 to 141/2 years in prison.

The Common Pleas Court jury deliberated about four hours before finding Melvin McIlwaine, 61, guilty of seven counts involving fraud and theft in a yearlong con in which he befriended Ray White, cheated him out of everything, and left him homeless.

White, now 90, arrived too late for sentencing, but said he hoped “more people will not be scammed as a result of this particular trial. . . . There are a lot of Dr. Jekylls and Mr. Hydes out there.”

Dana N. Goldberg, a lawyer with the Senior Law Center in Philadelphia, which joined with the law firm Blank Rome to represent White in a lawsuit to recoup his possessions, said financial scams targeting the elderly are “rampant.”

Goldberg cited a recent report by True Link, a San Francisco financial services firm, that U.S. seniors lose $36.5 billion a year to financial abuse and scams.”There is nothing more cowardly than to prey on the most vulnerable members of our society, the elderly,” Judge Angelo J. Foglietta said in sentencing McIlwaine, calling him a career thief and con who had no remorse.

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Former finance adviser guilty on all charges of bilking elderly woman

Friday March 13th 2015
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A former financial adviser accused of stealing money from an elderly Meadville woman was found guilty on 52 theft and forgery-related charges and placed in Crawford County jail with additional bond on Thursday.

David E.A. Seagren, 70, of Bradford successfully withdrew his guilty plea in February, losing his initial plea agreement with the Crawford county District Attorney’s Office, which offered up to 62 years in prison and $140,000 in fines on six counts of theft by deception and two counts of forgery.

On Thursday, a jury found him guilty on his 52 original charges — 22 counts of theft by deception, 22 counts of theft by unlawful taking and eight counts of forgery.

He now faces a maximum of more than 380 years in prison and an amount of potential fines that would be “staggering” to calculate offhand, in addition to nearly $190,000 sought in restitution, according to Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz. Read more »

Maine task force recommends more resources to fight exploitation of elderly

Thursday March 12th 2015
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Financial exploitation crimes against the elderly in Maine aren’t being adequately investigated or prosecuted because of a variety of roadblocks throughout the justice system, including lack of training and misconceptions about the crimes, a state attorney general’s task force has concluded.

In the report released Wednesday, the task force recommended changes to state law and in how cases are handled and additional staffing and specialized training for law enforcement officials, prosecutors and the court system.

Jaye Martin, executive director of Legal Services for the Elderly, said only 14 percent of victims of crimes against the elderly report them to law enforcement.

The Maine Attorney General’s Task Force on Financial Exploitation of the Elderly, convened by Attorney General Janet Mills in January 2014, included representatives from the attorney general’s office, district attorneys, law enforcement officials and representatives from the judicial and executive branches.

At a news conference unveiling the report Wednesday at the State House, Mills said law enforcement, district attorneys and the court system need to make it easier for seniors to report these crimes, for investigations to happen and for cases to be prosecuted promptly in court. Read more »

Dauphin County devotes county detective to investigation of elder abuse

Wednesday March 4th 2015
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A growing caseload of senior citizens being abused in their homes has spurred Dauphin County to dedicate a county detective to these investigations.

Roxanne Snider, a former investigator in the county Area Agency on Aging’s Elder Abuse Taskforce, started in her new role in the district attorney’s office in November.

“It’s something I’m really passionate about,” Snider told the county commissioners Wednesday.

 The county investigated 450 cases of alleged elder abuse in 2014, which is an increase of 157 percent from 2004, when the Elder Abuse Taskforce formed. More than half the cases last year were substantiated, with most involving theft by family members or trusted caregivers, said Commissioner George Hartwick.

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Woman charged with stealing $11,400 from her 99 year old grandmother with dementia

Wednesday February 18th 2015
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HARRISBURG, PA(WPMT)  A Schuylkill County woman is accused of stealing $11,400 in Social Security benefits from her grandmother, who has dementia and was not capable of consenting to the withdrawals from her bank account.

State Attorney Office agents charged Kelly McAlonis, 41, of Pottsville,  with one count each of Theft by Deception, Theft by Unlawful Taking and Receiving Stolen Property.

From November 2013 to June 2014, McAlonis personally drove her grandmother from her nursing home to her bank to make $1,000 withdrawals for her own use, according to the criminal complaint.

McAlonis was arrested on Friday February 13, arraigned and released on $5,000 unsecured bail.
To report possible crimes against Pennsylvania senior citizens or for information on elder abuse, contact the Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Hotline at (866) 623-2137 or visit www.attorneygeneral.gov.

The Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Unit investigates and prosecutes those who would cheat, deceive or abuse older Pennsylvanians.

This article was written by Howard Sheppard for Fox43 News.

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