Luzerne, Wyoming County Elder Abuse task forces to hold seminars

Wednesday October 8th 2014

FACTORYVILLE — The Luzerne/Wyoming Counties Elder Abuse Task Force will sponsor two seminars this month.The first is a “Senior Abuse and Fraud” seminar that will be held on Friday, Oct. 17 at 11 a.m. at the Mathewson Park Apartments, 6 Maple St., Factoryville. Representatives of the Pennsylvania Attorney General and Victims Resource Center will present information on elder abuse and fraud and resources available to victims. The event is open to the public.State Representatives Karen Boback and Sandra Major, along with the Luzerne/Wyoming Counties Elder Abuse Task Force, will sponsor a second “Senior Abuse and Fraud” seminar on Friday, Oct. 24 at 11 a.m. at the Wyoming County Active Adult Center, 101 Dymond Terrace, Tunkhannock. The event is open to the public.

This article was written by Travis Keller for the Times Leader. 

Caregiver convicted of stealing $500,000 from elderly man, killing him

Wednesday October 8th 2014

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A caregiver who stole more than $500,000 from an 88-year-old Rancho Bernardo man, then killed him so she could be independently wealthy was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder and other charges.

Denise Michelle Goodwin, 47, will be sent to prison for life without the possibility of parole at a hearing Dec. 5.

Jurors, who started deliberations a week ago, found Goodwin guilty of 11 counts, including murder for financial gain in the death of Gerald Rabourn, who disappeared in October 2010. His body was never found.  Goodwin wept quietly as the guilty verdict was read. She was also convicted of caregiver theft by an adult, fraudulent appropriation by a trustee, grand theft and forgery of documents.

In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Bill Mitchell told jurors that Goodwin was a “predator disguised as a caregiver,” targeting elderly men with money and no family nearby. Read more »

David Lynn Patton Sent to Prison for Stealing from Elderly Aunt

Wednesday October 8th 2014
David Lynn Patton Sent to Prison for Stealing from Elderly Aunt

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – It’s off to prison for David Lynn Patton of Knox.

Bail for Patton, of Knox, was revoked today after a special hearing before Judge James G. Arner in the Clarion County Courthouse, and he was immediately transported to Clarion County Jail and will later be transferred to a State Prison.

Patton was convicted on November 6, 2012, for theft of over $250,000 from his 88-year old aunt, Betty Wetzel.  He was out on bail because of an appeal Pennsylvania Superior Court.  A September 19 ruling by Superior Court upheld the original sentence of 30 to 60 months made in the Clarion Court of Common Courts. Read more »

Nationally known family of thieves preys on Central New York elderly

Monday September 29th 2014

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Chanel Lakatosz’s obituary says almost nothing of her 26-year life.

There’s no mention of her belonging to a family that preys on the elderly through daytime burglaries in places such as Atlantic City, Chicago, Philadelphia and other communities east of the Mississippi river. Or of her death in a Syracuse jail where she was held on a $3.75 million bond. There’s no mention of her being banned from Best Buy stores in Ohio. No one has left condolences on the funeral home’s website.

The brief account does capture her nomadic lifestyle. Born in Brooklyn, she lived her last eight years in a Chicago suburb and her funeral was at a Polish-speaking Roman Catholic Church in New Jersey.  In New York and Illinois, she shared at least three addresses with Witold “Victor” Lakatosz, who is not the father listed in her obituary, but a man who for decades has called himself the “King of Gypsies.”

Witold Lakatosz is the leader of a band of travelers with Polish roots who are currently based in Chicago. The King, who is in his late 60s, is famous for showing up in towns and cities where Lakatoszs have been arrested. In August, four Lakatosz family members, including Chanel Lakatosz, were arrested in Syracuse on charges of taking half a million dollars in valuables from 15 homes in four Onondaga County towns.

While he has not surfaced publicly in the latest case, the King often visits communities where his family has been arrested. Driving nice cars and wearing lots of jewelry, he has handed out business cards claiming he is a United Nations representative of the Roma people, commonly referred to as “Gypsies.” “He’s essentially the bailsman. He shows up and tries to buy off the cops, buy off the prosecutor,” said Dennis Marlock, a former detective lieutenant of the Milwaukee Police Department.

News stories show that Witold Lakatosz has appeared to offer restitution in dozens of cases from Florida to Connecticut since at least the 1970s. The defendants routinely skip court appearances after their bail is paid. Read more »

Superior Court Affirms Ruling Against Knox Man Found Guilty of Stealing $250k from 88 year old Aunt

Wednesday September 24th 2014

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has affirmed the Nov. 6, 2012, conviction of a Knox man for the theft of over $250,000.00 from his 88-year old aunt.

David Lynn Patton, of Knox, was found guilty in Clarion Court of Common Pleas on a total of 95 counts of Theft by Unlawful Taking and Failure to Make Required Disposition in connection with the theft of over $250,000.00 from Betty Wetzel between January 2007 and May 2012.

Patton was sentenced to an aggregate term of 30 to 60 months. He was out on bail for his appeal.

The ruling on the appeal was filed on September 19. Click here for the complete ruling.

Judges Gantman, Elliot, and Olson rejected the appeal and stated that the Power of Attorney between Patton and Wetzel was not a license to steal.

“Simply stated, we reject Appellant’s bold claim that the “unlimited gift” provision in the power of attorney provided Appellant with a license to steal Ms. Wetzel’s assets and use all of her money for Appellant’s own benefit. To the contrary, the gifting power was clearly subject to the condition that Appellant use the power ‘for benefit’ – and Appellant clearly violated this condition when he took all of Ms. Wetzel’s money and used it as if it was his own,” stated the Court. Read more »

Owner of Costa Rican Call Center Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Elderly Through Sweepstakes Scam

Monday September 22nd 2014

A dual United States-Costa Rican citizen pleaded guilty today for his role in a $1.88 million sweepstakes fraud scheme that defrauded hundreds of elderly Americans.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins of the Western District of North Carolina made the announcement.

Geoffrey Alexander Ramer, 34, of Costa Rica, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer of the Western District of North Carolina to wire fraud and money laundering in connection with the telemarketing fraud scheme. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.

“Ramer preyed upon some of the most vulnerable members of our society, callously and repeatedly defrauding elderly Americans by stealing their life savings,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “We hope that today’s guilty plea brings some solace to his victims. This prosecution sends a clear message to the next would-be con-artist: in protecting our citizens, the reach of the Justice Department will not stop at our country’s borders. Read more »

Court Decision Sets Precedent & Raises Awareness of Elder Abuse

Monday September 15th 2014

A NYC Housing Court judge recently  found in favor of an older adult who was being abused by, and lived in fear of his immediate family members (Housing Court Huggins v. Randolph). Kings County Judge, Susan F. Avery, JHC based a significant portion of her findings on the rights of older adults to live with respect and dignity, and pointed to the hidden nature of elder abuse, emphasizing that the protection of older adults from abuse and exploitation is a matter of significant public concern.1

This court finding represents a groundbreaking development for the elder justice movement both because of Judge Avery’s attention to the severity of elder abuse and because the case sets a legal precedent that paves the way for older adults who are abused in their living situations to find recourse through the justice system. Read more »

U.S. Department of Justice Launches the Elder Justice Website

Friday September 12th 2014

The site offers resources for victims, family members, prosecutors, researchers, and anyone who works with older adults.

Victims and family members will find information about how to report elder abuse and financial exploitation in all 50 states and the territories.
Federal, State, and local prosecutors will find three different databases containing sample pleadings and statutes.
Researchers in the elder abuse field may access a database containing bibliographic information for thousands of articles and reviews.
Practitioners — including professionals of all types who work with elder abuse and its consequences — will find information about resources available to help them prevent elder abuse and assist those who have already been abused, neglected or exploited.

This press release was issued by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) – a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Click here to sign up to receive direct email updates from ACL.


Guilty Plea in Elder Abuse Case

Monday September 8th 2014

NEWPORT TOWNSHIP — A woman was sentenced to three years probation after pleading guilty Wednesday morning to neglect of a care dependent person.

Investigators said Tonya Harlos of Mocanaqua got into a fight with an elderly patient in 2013.  (Click here to read the original news article)

The patient at Guardian Elder Care near Nanticoke said Harlos hurt her arms, smothered her with a pillow, and stole her doll.  Harlos told police she put her hands on the patient’s wrists to prevent the woman from hitting her.

This story was written by Bill Michlowski and reported on WNEP

Protect and Defend – Fraud Targeting Seniors

Friday September 5th 2014

Fraud against seniors hits all walks of life and is in every community. Known losses, just through financial exploitation of seniors in the US, have reached $2.6 billion each year. This is estimated to be the tip of the iceberg (just 2% of cases reported) making a realistic estimate top out at $125 billion annually, demonstrating the no-holds-barred approach of scammers that target elders.

The perpetrators are not just the usual fraudsters. Most often (65%) they are family members and trusted professionals.Their greed leads to the demise of a lifetime of careful financial planning, established care plans and stable housing situations and is having devastating effects in our communities. Family members often rationalize the assets are their inheritance, but it is a crime and not just a family issue.

Excerpted from the August 2014 Fraud Avengers Newsletter which is focused on Fraud Against Seniors.  Click here to read the entire newsletter and sign up for future issues. was created by fraud prevention professionals to add “fraud prevention” to the public’s understanding of “financial literacy”; to empower individuals to protect themselves and the ones they care about from financial abuse; and to impede criminals who seek to benefit from payments fraud.

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