Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Judge sees 'mismanagement,' 'misappropriation' in ex-guardian's handling of elderly clients' funds

Gloria Byars (center) walks inside Philadelphia City Hall before entering Orphans Court Judge John Herron’s courtroom Monday, May 14, 2018. At right is her attorney, Sharon Alexander; at left is an assistant.
A Delaware County woman removed as court-appointed guardian for about 100 elderly clients in the region was berated by a Philadelphia judge Monday for repeatedly failing to follow his orders, being nine months late in filing a report he requested, and failing to show up at two hearings last month.

“She has failed over and over and over again to comply with the orders of this court,” Orphans’ Court Judge John Herron said of Gloria Byars, 57, of Aldan, who has been accused by family members of financially exploiting their elderly relatives. She arrived at the afternoon hearing a few minutes late, walking with a cane.

Byars, who has a criminal background of fraud, bad checks, and forgery, was the subject of a March 30 Inquirer and Daily News article highlighting the lack of state requirements, including background checks, for guardians who manage the affairs of people deemed incapacitated.

After her convictions became known to Herron last year and the judge learned that she was doling out work to her husband’s company without disclosing it, the judge removed her from the 34 cases to which he had appointed her, and ordered her to provide reports of how she had spent her clients’ assets.

Earlier this year, the other two Orphans’ Court judges removed Byars from their remaining cases, as did judges in Montgomery and Delaware Counties. In all, she was removed from about 100 guardianship cases.

Monday’s hearing dealt with the estate of a former Northeast Philadelphia woman, Estelle Segal, who died in February in a Bucks County nursing home at age 83. Byars, who operated Global Guardian Services in Lansdowne, had failed to file a report of how she had spent Segal’s assets as ordered Aug. 10 by Herron and had not appeared at an April 2 hearing to explain herself.

Herron, in an April 4 decree, wrote that $127,607 was unaccounted for in Segal’s estate. He sentenced Byars to five months in jail for contempt of court, but suspended the sentence pending Monday’s hearing.

On Monday, Byars and her attorney, Sharon Alexander, told the judge they would immediately file a final account of Byars’ expenditures. They said Byars had missed the April 2 hearing and another on April 24 because of illness.

Herron’s threat of jail time remains pending the outcome of a June 6 hearing to review Byars’ expenditures in Segal’s estate.

After Monday’s hearing, Byars and Alexander declined to comment.

The April 24 hearing was to explain disputed expenditures in the estates of a former Fox Chase couple, Edmund and Margareta Berg. The judge Thursday issued a decree ordering Byars to pay $63,079 — in part to reimburse the Bergs for $34,113 in improper expenditures and $4,487 in guardianship fees she paid to herself, and to pay $24,479 in legal fees and costs incurred by Margareta Berg’s brother, Josef Wituschek.

In a harshly worded opinion Thursday, Herron wrote that Byars’ “misconduct ranged from mismanagement of the estates of her wards in the best of cases, to misappropriation of their assets in the worst.”

Herron also lambasted the Philadelphia Corp. for Aging, which had recommended Byars for most of her city guardianships, writing that “the court is deeply disappointed in PCA and disturbed by its lack of due diligence in examining the history and fitness of [Byars] to serve as guardian before nominating her.”

Added Herron: “PCA’s utter failure to conduct even the most elementary assessment of [Byars’] fitness to serve resulted in her appointment to nearly all of her 91 former cases in Philadelphia.”

He added that although Byars “is only one bad apple, that one bad apple has imposed an astronomical administrative burden” on the court’s small legal staff, which has “had to go to extraordinary lengths to remediate her misconduct and find suitable successor guardians for each ward.”

The agency’s lack of vetting of Byars “has shaken the public’s faith in the guardianship system,” Herron wrote.

Byars has not been criminally charged in any guardianship cases. Herron wrote in his decree Thursday that the matters of the Bergs and Segal “have both been referred to the district attorneys of Philadelphia and Delaware Counties for appropriate review.”

Unlike 18 other states, Pennsylvania does not require professional guardians to undergo criminal background checks, although the revelations of Byars’ fraudulent past have spurred some changes.

In Philadelphia, guardians now must affirm that they have not been convicted of any crime involving fraud, deceit, or financial misconduct. Also, an individual or agency, such as PCA, now must submit a Pennsylvania State Police criminal history report for a proposed guardian. And if the guardian resided within the last five years in one or more other states, a criminal history report from each of those states is required.

The petitioner also must submit a statement of the guardian’s certifications, caseload, and counties where the guardian has served. The new city requirements are similar to proposed changes recommended in December by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Orphans’ Court Procedural Rules Committee to the Supreme Court justices, who would decide whether to adopt them statewide.

Changes also are being proposed in the legislature. State Rep. Mark Gillen (R., Berks) on April 9 introduced a bill requiring criminal background checks for prospective guardians and prohibiting felons from serving. State Sens. Art Haywood (D., Montgomery-Phila.) and Judith Schwank (D., Berks) are working on a Senate amendment to another bill to require background checks and certification for guardians.

“The court sincerely hopes that the discovery of [Byars’] malfeasance will serve as a clarion call to make the larger changes necessary to protect incapacitated Pennsylvanians,” Herron wrote in Thursday’s opinion.

Abbey Porter, a PCA spokeswoman, said in a statement Monday: “PCA acknowledges the court’s new procedure concerning its appointment of guardians … [and] endorses the position that criminal history is only one of the criteria that may be relevant to the screening of potential guardians, and looks forward to its role in the development of these standards.”

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Judge sees 'mismanagement,' 'misappropriation' in ex-guardian's handling of elderly clients' funds

Arson suspect's family fights for guardianship

Leonardtown, MD- On Monday, May 14, the mother of arson suspect Nicholas Nowotny, 27, appeared before Judge David W. Densford, requesting an emergency guardianship of her son.

Nowotny is suspected of setting fire to his father’s home on Wednesday, May 9, on Peninsular Drive in Hollywood. The two-story home was completely destroyed by the blaze.

Shortly after the fire started, police say Nowotny fled the scene and crashed into a tree while speeding along Jones Wharf Road. Nowotny suffered only minor injuries but remains hospitalized at MedStar St. Mary’s. was the only publication in court when Nowotny’s mother, Pamela Raymond, explained to Densford why she needed the emergency order. She said despite her possession of an advanced mental health directive, the hospital would not allow her to make decisions on behalf of her son.

Raymond’s ex-husband and Nowotny’s father, Michael, and her current husband were also in court and told the judge they supported her attempt for emergency guardianship.

In 2011, at the age of 20, Nowotny was diagnosed with schizophrenia and had been hospitalized at Sheppard Pratt, a mental health treatment facility in Baltimore. Nowotny was treated and prescribed medicine to help with psychosis and sleep disorders.

On the morning of the fire, Nowotny attended his classes at the College of Southern Maryland, as usual. No one knows what went wrong during the afternoon of May 9 or what may have caused a breakdown. Raymond testified that Nowotny is remorseful but knows he is unstable and needs long-term, in-patient care.

“I don’t believe Nick can be on his own. He wants someone to stay with him,” Raymond told Densford.

Nowotny’s attorney, James Tanavage, said Nowotny also agreed to the guardianship request. Raymond said she planned to have Nowotny admitted to Sheppard Pratt—even if she had to do so through the walk-in clinic.

Densford approved the request, giving Raymond temporary guardianship while she attempted to seek psychiatric treatment for Nowotny.

Michael Nowotny spoke briefly with in court and expressed concern for his son. He also said his neighborhood has come out in full support for the family. “I don’t know if I’d be here without their help.”

Just two hours after this hearing concluded, the State Fire Marshal arrested Nowotny and charged him with first-degree arson.

* * * 

ST. MARY'S COUNTY, MD (May 14, 2018)  - A Deputy State Fire Marshal has arrested a  Hollywood man who intentionally set fire to a two-story single family dwelling in Hollywood.  The residence is owned by Michael Nowotny.

On May 9, 2018, at approximately 4:47 pm, approximately 50 firefighters from Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department responded to a one-alarm fire located at 26442 Peninsular Drive that caused approximately $350,000 in damages.  Mr. Nowotny was also Emergency Petitioned the same night of the fire by the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office.

As a result of the investigation by the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office, it was determined that Nicholas Everett Nowotny (7/27/1990) of the same address intentionally set fire to his father's residence. Mr. Nowotny was charged with Arson 1st Degree. He was transported from MedStar St. Mary's Hospital to the St. Mary's County Detention Center at approximately 1:48 p.m without incident.

He is currently being held without bond until his hearing on May 15. 2018 at 1 p.m.

Full Article & Source:
Arson suspect's family fights for guardianship

Documents Show Lois Riess Stole Thousands From Disabled Sister In 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — New documents show accused murderer Lois Riess was under criminal investigation in Minnesota in 2015.

But Riess was never charged. The documents from Dodge County show investigators were looking at charging Riess for taking tens of thousands of dollars from her disabled sister.

She was appointed her sister’s guardian in 2012.

Recently, Riess was arrested for a murder spree that allegedly started with her husband in Blooming Prairie last month, and ended in Florida with the death of Pamela Hutchinson.

Riess was on the run for almost a month before she was captured in a Texas bar last week. But this was not her first brush with serious legal trouble.

We found documents showing she was on authorities’ radar in Minnesota for felony theft three years ago.

A review of hundreds of documents show that in 2015, Lois Riess was very much on Minnesota law enforcement radar for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from her disabled sister.

A September 2015 document from Dodge County says, “Law enforcement is also looking into the matter for possible criminal charges.”

A civil judgement filed just a year ago against Riess said she owed her sister $100,000.

Susan Gaertner is the former Ramsey County attorney. She has no ties to the Riess case.

“If you steal money from anyone, especially from a vulnerable adult, of course you can be prosecuted. That’s a crime,” Gaertner said.

Documents WCCO found claim Riess spent thousands of her sister’s dollars at casinos and, deposited thousands into her own accounts. Gaertner, who reviewed documents in the case, says Minnesota law gives wide discretion to guardians.

“Twenty-twenty hind sight is always perfect,” Gaertner said.

Under pressure in 2016, Riess withdrew as guardian, and the courts appointed an independent guardian. According to Minnesota courts, 21,000 adult Minnesotans have court-appointed guardians.

Gaertner says even if Riess had been prosecuted for felony theft back in 2015, under Minnesota law, she would likely have never seen any prison time.

“We don’t put people in prison generally for stealing under $100,000,” Gaertner said.

We did reach out to Dodge County authorities for comment and did not hear back. That $100,000 judgement against Lois Riess filed a year ago remains open – court documents show Riess has not repaid her disabled sister any of that debt.

Full Article & Source:
Documents Show Lois Riess Stole Thousands From Disabled Sister In 2015

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Our guest this evening is Atty. Candice Schwager and her client Barbara. Barbara’s mother died while in Hospice and was cremated before any identification of the body could be made. Upon questioning, the guardian admitted in court she didn’t know if anyone had identified the body. This lady’s death was preceded by a long and ugly guardianship abuse and estate theft case. Hospice was the perfect way to bring it to an end.

Join Carly as she hosts these two ladies who have seen first hand the ugly side of guardianship and of Hospice. The elderly are now considered human waste……but before they are disposed of, they are robbed of everything they own by predators gaming the system.

LISTEN to the show now or listen to the archive later

The Elder Abuse Reform Now Project (EARN) Presents: The Unforgivable Truth: How We Have Turned America's Greatest Generation into America's Abused Generation

The Unforgivable Truth
How we have turned America's Greatest Generation into America's Abused Generation.

Victims of financial exploitation share their heartbreaking stories and seasoned professionals, from government officials to journalists, share their expertise on the state of elder financial abuse in the United States.

The Unforgivable Truth

JOIN the EARN Project

Elder abuse task force reacts to nursing home scabies outbreaks

Members of the Cobb Elder Abuse Task Force met May 7 to discuss how to make sure the right people have the right information when contagious illnesses like scabies occur at senior homes.

The meeting came as one Georgia case has been making headlines nationwide. It was recently reported 93-year-old Rebecca Zeni, a resident of a senior home in Walker County, died in 2015 following a particularly grisly scabies infection. In Zeni’s case, the infection appeared to have gone on for months or years, according to news reports, with a forensic pathologist reporting millions of the microscopic mites inside her body, leading the family to sue the nursing home for neglect.

At least one case of scabies has been reported in a Cobb County assisted living home in recent months, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health and a family member of the woman who was diagnosed with the condition.

State Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-east Cobb, chairs the House Health and Human Services Com-mittee and works with the task force. She said the senior task force is not looking to point fin-gers, but to find a way to quickly curtail future outbreaks.

“We’re trying to solve a problem and prevent future problems of the same kind,” she said.

The MDJ spoke with a Smyrna woman who said her mother, a 78-year-old dementia patient, lived at Elmcroft of Milford Chase in southwest Cobb for three years and contracted the para-sites about six months before her recent diagnosis.

A representative of Elmcroft of Milford Chase declined to answer questions by phone and the home did not respond to an email asking for comment.

The daughter, who did not want to be identified to protect her mother’s privacy, said the home realized there was a problem quickly, but the doctors there and an outside dermatologist failed to diagnose the communicable disease over a period of months.

“In the beginning, it was a rash,” the daughter said. “It was obvious to the nurses and the doc-tors. They prescribed her some creams to help her with the itching because she scratched a lot, and it got better. But then in February, she had a big, big breakout again and that’s when the nurse and the facility said you probably want to take your mom to a dermatologist.”

Scabies is caused by microscopic mites that burrow into the skin and lay eggs. It can be spread by prolonged skin-to-skin contact and often manifests as an intensely itchy rash.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nursing homes, extended-care facilities, child care centers and prisons are often the sites of scabies outbreaks because they have a large number of people in close contact.

The CDC says scabies occurs worldwide among all economic classes, and can be transmitted from one person to another before symptoms begin to show.

Scabies is not typically fatal on its own, but can lead to bacterial infections that can be deadly, especially among the elderly. Zeni’s family alleges her Walker County nursing home was negli-gent in allowing her disease to progress so far that it led to her death. If properly diagnosed, it can be treated with a simple prescription lotion or cream, according to the CDC.

The Smyrna woman said she took her mother to a Marietta dermatologist four times over the course of two months on the advice of the home, but did not receive the proper diagnosis. That doctor believed an allergic reaction to medication was causing the rash, the daughter said.

After finding no help, the woman took her mother to a different dermatologist, who diagnosed the parasites right away.

“The dermatologist we went to about a week ago, they scraped (her) hand … put it under the microscope, and two minutes later, they confirmed scabies,” she said.

The daughter said her mother has shown an almost instant improvement and is expected to completely recover from the scabies.

“Once she got the proper medications last week, she looked tremendously better within just a couple of days,” she said. “I was over there Sunday, and instead of crying and screaming in pain and not sleeping, she was blowing kisses.”

The Smyrna daughter said she is relieved her mother is now doing better, but still upset doc-tors took so long to figure out what was going on. She said she would like to see reforms to the state’s nursing homes, including more oversight and mandatory reporting to relevant govern-ment agencies when a communicable disease like scabies occurs in a group home.

“(Nursing home staff) had to be told to contact the Cobb County Health Department by the hospice nurse that my mother sees,” she said. “They didn’t even know what to do, or they didn’t want to do it because it’s bad press, bad for business. There needs to be a lot more oversight on these nursing homes and assisted living facilities. When something like this happens, it needs to be reported all the way to the state.”


Rep. Cooper said those reforms could be coming.

She said in the Walker County case, part of the problem was that state officials did not act. She said shortly before Zeni’s death, an employee with the Georgia Department of Public Health mailed the nursing home a pamphlet on how to deal with scabies, but nobody came to investi-gate the reported outbreak.

Cooper said the public health department is not required by law to visit facilities after learn-ing of an outbreak, and that is something she will look into changing.

“It could be we can change some of the regulations about reporting or change laws to say cer-tain people have to report to public health or must report some of the outbreaks under the De-partment of Community Health … I’m going to call other legislators as soon as the primaries are over … (and) call a meeting of some of my members on the HHS (Committee), and we are going to start looking to see if there are any applicable protocols and regulations for care homes, nurs-ing homes or assisted living homes or for doctors and other state agencies,” she said. “We’re go-ing to see … if a ball was dropped, if, somehow, the reports are not getting to the correct people, the procedures are not being followed so the proper people know about these incidents sooner and can initiate correct intervention.”

The Smyrna daughter said she has been in touch with attorneys and Zeni’s family to discuss a lawsuit. She said she does not plan on suing, but still wishes something had been done differ-ently.
“They weren’t neglectful, but I think the doctors they bring in every week, the nurses, some-one should have figured this out months ago,” she said.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Jason Marbutt, who chairs the Cobb Elder Abuse Task Force, said lack of proper care of the elderly can take many forms, but he thinks more people are beginning to recognize the importance of protecting the aged.

“This is something we have been working on for years,” he said. “I think we are recognizing that we have an aging population and they are vulnerable to abuse, neglect and exploitation … The numbers are certainly increasing, and law enforcement, particularly in Cobb County, is working very diligently to make sure we stay abreast of the rising tide.”

Marbutt touted a trio of bills signed by Gov. Nathan Deal just before the meeting meeting, which he said represent an unprecedented step toward protecting seniors and other vulnerable adults. They will strengthen background checks for those who care for seniors, provide harsher punishments for people who say they will take care of elders and then leave with their money and allow district attorneys to set up working groups on elder abuse.

Marbutt said those who suspect elder abuse should report it to the proper authorities.

“If there is abuse, neglect or exploitation, whether it is in a facility or outside a facility, the proper places are the licensing agency, or if it’s outside the facility, to adult protective services and law enforcement. It would be the Cobb County Police Department, Cobb County Sheriff, Powder Springs, Smyrna, Marietta, all the different agencies should be receiving reports,” Mar-butt said.

Full Article & Source: 
Elder abuse task force reacts to nursing home scabies outbreaks

Researchers Neutralize A Gene In Human Brain Cells Associated With Alzheimer’s

By altering a gene associated with Alzheimer’s, researchers have been able to effectively neutralize it in tests and eliminate signs of the disease in lab-grown neurons.

The gene in question is called apoE4 and has been associated with the build-up of the tau tangles and beta-amyloid plaques that are linked to the devastating disease. Previously, studies looking into this connection and attempting to create drugs to target it have been mired in problems, mainly as they have tended to focus on mouse models rather than human cells.

“Drug development for Alzheimer’s disease has been largely a disappointment over the past 10 years,” explained Yadong Huang, who led this latest study published in Nature Medicine. “Many drugs work beautifully in a mouse model, but so far they’ve all failed in clinical trials. One concern within the field has been how poorly these mouse models really mimic human disease.”

In light of this, the team turned to using human cells in the lab, and took the skin cells from patients with Alzheimer’s who have two copies of apoE4 as well as samples from people with the normal variant known as apoE3, and turned them into stem cells. These were then coaxed into forming human neurons.

From this, the researchers were able to study exactly how the apoE4 gene variant influences the build-up of the tau proteins and beta-amyloid plaques that are associated with the development of Alzheimer’s. After finding that yes, it does indeed cause this build-up to occur, they then wanted to know how: does the presence of apoE4 causing a loss of apoE3 function, or is it itself causing the toxic effects seen? These answers are vital as to how we might treat the problem.

“If the damage is caused due to the loss of a protein’s function, you would want to increase protein levels to supplement those functions,” said Huang. “But if the accumulation of a protein leads to a toxic function, you want to lower production of the protein to block its detrimental effect.”

The lab-grown human neurons were able to prove that it was indeed the presence of apoE4 – and not simply the absence of apoE3 – that caused the damaging proteins to build-up in the cells. This meant that the researchers could use earlier work they had done in altering the abnormal apoE4 gene to resemble the innocuous apoE3 gene, using what are called “structure correctors.”

By targeting the gene in this way, they were in effect able to neutralize it and restored normal function to the neurons. They now hope to work with drug companies to see if they are able to translate what they found into a treatment that can then be put through clinical trials.

Full Article & Source:
Researchers Neutralize A Gene In Human Brain Cells Associated With Alzheimer’s

Monday, May 21, 2018

'Star Trek' Star Nichelle Nichols Judge Grants Conservatorship After Dementia Claims

Nichelle Nichols
'Star Trek' icon Nichelle Nichols will have a new team handling her financial affairs in response to her son's claims she's battling dementia ... TMZ has learned.

According to court docs, an L.A. County judge signed off on Kyle Johnson's request to have 4 fiduciaries be his mom's conservators until mid-August, when there will be a court hearing. The hope is Nichelle will be able to attend that hearing.

As we first reported ... Kyle says his mother, who famously played Lt. Uhura, suffers from severe short-term memory loss, and needs court-ordered protection to block people from taking advantage of her.

In the docs, obtained by TMZ, the judge said Nichelle consents to the appointment of her conservators. The judge also noted Nichelle is currently out of state.

Full Article & Source: 
'Star Trek' Star Nichelle Nichols Judge Grants Conservatorship After Dementia Claims

See Also:
Judge Places Star Trek TV Actress Under Temporary Conservatorship

Semel Son, Wife, Say They Will Mediate Conservatorship Dispute

The wife and the oldest child of former Yahoo! and Warner Bros. executive Terry Semel, who has Alzheimer’s disease, told a Los Angeles judge Thursday they will try to resolve their differences over his health care and living conditions without the need of a conservator.

Lawyers for Jane and Eric Semel said attorney Andrew Wallet’s temporary conservatorship over the person of Terry Semel, which Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Juarez imposed on Friday, will terminate Thursday as scheduled. The former studio chief’s son had filed the first volley in the legal dispute and picked Wallet as the temporary conservator for his father.

Eric Semel, 39, was born during his father’s first marriage, which ended in divorce in 1974. The 75-year-old Semel married his wife, Jane, three years later. They have three daughters.

The lawyers told the judge that between now and a June 20 status conference, both sides will discuss whether Semel should continue to live at his current home at the Motion Picture & Television Fund-operated retirement community in Woodland Hills. Eric Semel had contended that his father preferred the environment he had at his Bel-Air mansion.

No restrictions will be put on family members who want to visit Semel, he will continue to have his medical appointments and none of his current caregivers will be fired, according to the agreement.

The parties will appear before Juarez on June 20 to let him know if mediation was successful, or whether a temporary conservatorship should be put back in place. An Aug. 3 hearing was scheduled in case a permanent conservatorship is needed.

Jane Semel filed court papers several days after her stepson asked that a judge appoint a conservator to manage his father’s finances. He says in his May 10 petition that his stepmother currently has sole control over her husband’s finances and there is dissension between her and some of his four children.

But Jane Semel said in her court papers filed Wednesday that in August 2012, her husband executed an advanced health care directive in which he named her and one of her daughters as his agents to make his health care decisions. She said she and her daughter, Lily, were suited to become co-conservators of her husband, who she says was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease five years ago.

Semel was the chairman and CEO of Yahoo! from 2001 to 2007. Before that, he spent 24 years at Warner Bros., where he served as chairman and co-CEO, resigning amid shareholders’ dissatisfaction over his compensation package.

In 2004, the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute was renamed the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. At the time, the university said the couple’s $25 million gift was one of the nation’s largest to be dedicated exclusively to the better understanding of the brain.

Full Article & Source:
Semel Son, Wife, Say They Will Mediate Conservatorship Dispute

See Also:
Terry Semel’s Wife Files Competing Conservatorship Petition