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Articles Posted in Financial Elder Abuse

A recent article in The New York Times suggested that banks may play a key role when it comes to schemes intended to defraud older Americans. Is elder financial abuse a significant problem, especially when many people in the U.S. are dealing with money troubles despite their age?

Financial Elder Abuse

According to The New York Times, older Americans may be particularly susceptible. When it comes to financial fraud, elderly persons tend to be more vulnerable due to their increased financial worries and loneliness. If you are concerned that an elderly loved one has become the victim of financial abuse, you need an experienced elder justice advocate on your side.

A resident of a nursing home is no different than any other citizen in the United States when it comes to his or her rights and protections. Living in a nursing facility does not mean you give up your rights despite the new and oftentimes more controlled environment, as opposed to living independently. Each nursing home must inform residents of their rights and provide a written description of those legal rights. They must do so in a manner or language that the resident comprehends. Residents must be given the written description of their rights prior to admission and must acknowledge in writing that they received them.

Money is a topic addressed in a patient’s rights. According to the Federal Government, residents have the right to manage their own money or to choose someone to do if for them.

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This is straightforward, but as with anything that involves money it can get complicated. Residents can deposit funds with the nursing home and ask that the nursing home hold the funds for them. Before doing so, the resident must sign a written statement authorizing the nursing home to hold the funds. A resident may also ask that the nursing home manage and account for personal funds, but the written authorization is again needed here. The nursing home must give the resident access to any bank accounts or funds that it is holding for the resident. Residents may take advantage of this service, but they are not required to deposit personal funds with the nursing home.

The Mercury News recently reported that a former commander in the Pinole Police Department, and his wife, have been charged with trying to defraud an 82-year-old Pleasanton woman. Matthew Messier, the 36-year-old former police commander was charged with several crimes including four counts of elder abuse. Messier and his wife attempted to defraud the elderly woman by placing her entire estate into a trust under their control.

The victim’s assets were estimated to be between $750,000 and $1 million.

The investigation began in July while Messier was still police commander with the Pinole Police Department. Messier used his position as police commander to gain the victim’s trust. The victim then began depositing funds into a trust controlled by Messiers. Messier had been with the police department since 2001, but he resigned his position October 21 of this year.

Many individuals automatically assume that issues of elder or dependent adult abuse strictly involve physical or mental abuse occurring within nursing facilities or perpetrated by in-home caregivers. Individuals see images of bed sores where patients were not rotated correctly or bruises from an abusive caregiver who became impatient with someone and beat them. These are obviously serious instances of abuse, but there is another way that elder abuse rears its ugly head: financial scams.

Scam artists have prey on the knowledge that the elderly and dependant adults are not always fully aware of their finances. These individuals often suffer from dementia or other mental diseases, leaving them with a diminished mental capacity. Scam artists play off of that reduced capacity and use it to scam these individuals out of sums of money both large and small. The examples below are some of the common schemes that criminals use to pick at elderly and dependant adults and their bank accounts.

Home Repair

The Sacramento Business Journal reported today on a new website that the California Department of Insurance launched in order to help educate California seniors. The article highlights a few aspects of the new site called “Senior Gateway”, but once you visit the site, you see that it has a lot to offer to not only seniors, but their families, caregivers and representatives as well.

Here are a few bullet points outlined by the Sacramento Business Journal for what “Senior Gateway” offers:

*Avoiding and reporting abuse and neglect by in-home caregivers or in facilities

The unfortunate reality is that financial abuse in nursing homes and elder facilities has affected thousands of innocent and vulnerable seniors. In fact, reports show that such citizens lost an astounding $2.9 billion in 2010, a 12% rise from years previous. This blog post aims to highlight certain information regarding elder and nursing home embezzlement—as well as protecting you and your loved ones from it.

Elder abuse can take many forms. In certain instances, some of the perpetrators are individuals who have no relationship with the elder—such as fraudulent telemarketers or identity thieves. Although such persons may have no affiliation with the elders or nursing home members, they still can easily swindle and coax them. Moreover, oftentimes it is the ones closest, such as caregivers or nursing home staff, who are the con artists. Being so close and so trusted, these people have easy access to financial records, credit cards, or even simple cash from the wallet. Also, some nursing home embezzlers have used their residences as a source of funding for miscellaneous desires, such as car or house payments, gym memberships, etc. Hence, financial elder abuse is nothing to be overlooked.

One of the largest determinates in elder financial abuse cases is solitude. The greater degree of seclusion, the more an individual is at risk. It creates an air of vulnerability for elders, as there are very few others able to recognize any symptoms or inaccuracies. Such solitude leaves residents as the ultimate and only decision makers, potentially causing he or she to miss certain financial “errors” or give authorization to terrible decisions. Furthermore, every individual needs companionship and, therefore, the lack thereof can lead to strong relationships with caregivers. In many cases, this is extremely healthy for residents; but in some instances, manipulation and unethical exploitation can occur. It is extremely important that there are family or friends available to reexamine financial records or statements. Spotting a certain oddity can save you or you loved one from losing thousands of dollars along with emotional damages. Thus, a secluded elder can very easily become an abused elder.

The San Diego nursing home abuse attorneys at our firm understand the many ways that seniors can be taken advantage of in long-term care facilities. Physical abuse, neglect, sexual assault, and even financial exploitation often strike at these homes.

tax%20calculator%20%28Dave%20Dugdale%29.jpgFor example, a 31 year-old staff member of the Maple Glen Center, a nursing home community located in Maywood, New Jersey, faces up to fifteen charges for conning an elderly resident. As reported by Fair Lawn Patch, Maple Glen employee Kye Giacalone was charged on June 15 with theft of entrusted funds, theft by deception, and four counts of theft by credit card. Though as details leaked out, the initially estimated $29,000 of allegedly embezzled funds continued to rise. Giacalone, the nursing home’s admissions director, supposedly made credit card purchases exceeding an astounding $100,000. Maywood Police announced Friday, June 22 that nine new charges would be added, including four counts of impersonating another and one count of second-degree theft; by New Jersey law, amounts surpassing $75,000 constitute second-degree theft charges.

The resident of Lodi allegedly befriended the 82-year-old nursing home victim, eventually gaining access to his bank account. Authorities say that, in September of 2010, Kye Giacalone acquired the Power of Attorney. This privilege gives one or more individuals the power to act on behalf of another; the Power of Attorney may be limited to a specific activity or general in its application. Regardless of its nature, Giacolone supposedly exploited this newfound entitlement by opening credit cards in the man’s name. Even after the unknowing victim moved from Maple Glen Center into another nursing home, she continued to purchase personal items with the credit cards.

Citing privacy laws, the nursing home’s acting administrator declined to release much information regarding Kye Giacalone’s tenure at Maple Glen. Furthermore, Harrison stated that she did not regularly have direct contact with the nursing home residents. Though supposedly all Maple Glen Center employees are subject to a background check. It appears that the director held no knowledge of these wrongdoings before the authorities came to the center on June 15 to arrest Giacalone.
“We weren’t aware of any of this,” the director said. “When we found out, we suspended her immediately and launched our own investigation.”

A family friend of the victim notified police after recognizing abnormalities in the man’s bank account, Maywood Detective Sgt. Mark Gillies said. Sgt. Gillies also asserted that he was unaware whether the bank accounts of any other Maple Glen Center residents had been jeopardized. Yet, the Maywood Police Department advised residents who had regular contact with Giacalone to evaluate and examine their own finances, as additional irregularities may arise. Giacalone is currently being held at Bergen County Jail with the bail for the nine new charges set at $75,000.

Even a single case of nursing home abuse is one too many. Our San Diego elderly abuse lawyer understands and advocates awareness of nursing home maltreatment. This most recent case is a reminder that it is important to continually analyze the financial statements and accounts of the elders. Furthermore, families and friends should be cognizant of the power and sway nursing employees hold over their residents. Many caregivers have enriched the lives of elders, but as seen here: that is not always the case.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Two Elderly Men Repeatedly Abused at Assisted Living Home

Police Warn Against Telephone Scams Targeting Elderly San Diego Residents

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The San Diego Sheriff’s Department has issued warnings to elderly residents about two recent telephone scams that may be targeting seniors, reports the San Diego Union-Times. Those of us working in San Diego elder abuse law know that financial abusers frequently seek out seniors. According to the California Department of Finance, our state has nearly 4 million residents over the age of 65, the biggest senior population in the country. The Department expects that California’s senior population will double in the next 20 years, likely due to the high number of aging baby boomers. As the state’s senior population grows, our San Diego County elder abuse attorneys realize more and more unscrupulous financial predators may step up their efforts to defraud elderly residents. justice.jpg

Common Scams

The first scam was discovered when a suspect allegedly called the Sheriff’s Department himself, apparently tipping the police off. The suspect asked deputies to check on a woman he claimed was a relative living in San Diego County. When deputies visited the woman’s home, she told police she did not know the caller claiming to be her relative. She also reported to police that she has been a victim of financial abuse previously. A scammer had conned her into wiring money by pretending to be a relative who was overseas and in trouble—a common scheme used to target elders that we discussed in a prior post. San Diego police believe someone working with the scammer made the strange call to the precinct, perhaps as a way to re-contact the woman.

Elderly victims of financial abuse, like those suffering from other forms of abuse, are usually reluctant to report their abusers. In the case of financial abuse, many California elders may not even be aware they are being victimized. Our North County elder abuse lawyer knows that financial abuse makes up a significant portion of all elder abuse cases reported each year. Despite increasing awareness of elder financial abuse, many instances of this conduct are still occurring as California’s elderly population grows.

Two recent news articles again have shed light on the problem of California elder financial abuse. The Napa Valley Register reports that a Calistoga woman pled guilty to California elder abuse and tax evasion. The 51-year-old bookkeeper had been hired to manage an elderly woman’s financial affairs relating to the operation of the victim’s bed and breakfast in St. Helena. Instead, the bookkeeper embezzled more than $250,000 from the Yolo County woman over the course of 7 years, transferring the victim’s assets to other accounts to pay her own bills. The crimes apparently were discovered after the 80-year-old victim became ill and her family realized her assets had been depleted. Insurance%20Fraud.jpg

The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office decided to prosecute the Calistoga woman after learning that she had used the victim’s money to pay personal bills and purchase rental property in Santa Rosa and vacation property in Oregon. Although the woman will not be sentenced until March, she has already agreed to forfeit more than $300,000 in cash and property to pay restitution to the victim.

Our San Diego nursing home abuse lawyers know that the holidays are a great time to check in on loved ones, including seniors. It can be easy to get caught up in the holiday hustle and bustle, but a simple phone call to your loved ones to let them know you are thinking about them can go a long way. The holidays can also be a good time to check on the medical care your loved ones are receiving and to make sure they do not have any concerns about their finances.

Unfortunately, the holidays are also a time when unscrupulous scammers target senior citizens. A recent news article in the Mission Times Courier describes several common scams that often target elders. California elder financial abuse is a growing concern across the state, as well as across the nation. The article provides several examples offered by the San Diego Police Department of the kinds of schemes to which seniors are particularly vulnerable.

The Grandparent Scam

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