March 21, 2014

Reminder: Keep an Eye Out for Elder Financial Exploitation

by Levin & Perconti

We are in the heart of tax season, with less than a month left before the April 15th filing deadline. As you sort through your personal paperwork your head may spin while trying to understand complex rules regarding deductions, tax rates, and more. Financial matters are complex. That is exactly why professionals are involved in many transactions, because it is difficult for regular community members to figure it out on their own.

Unfortunately, it is for the very same reasons that senior financial exploitation is such a common problem. Anyone is at risk of having their money taken in various scheme, but seniors have unique vulnerabilities that make them prime targets for abuse.

Considering finances are on the mind of many Chicagoans this season, it is a perfect time to offer some reminders about the prevalence of elder financial exploitation and the signs that may indicate a senior in your life is affected.

Financial Abuse in Illinois
This sort of mistreatment can be perpetrated by anyone. However, researchers into the subject note that the most common perpetrators are family members, unscrupulous financial professionals, and, in rarer cases, strangers who “befriend’ the senior. Some common general signs of mistreatment include:

---Account figures change suddenly. Retired seniors are usually living off a nest egg, and it should only be depleted on a safe, systematic basis. Any sudden change is a huge red flag that something is amiss.

---The senior has a new, close friend. Of course there is nothing wrong with new relationships blooming in old age. However, it is important to be at least somewhat cautious of individuals who seem to grow particularly close to a senior in a short time. Those willing to cheat vulnerable, often lonely, elderly residents usually first work their way into their lives as a friend.

When the exploitation is occurring by a financial professional, there there may be unique warning signs. For example, as mentioned in a recent Forbes article on the subject:

---The financial professional (often a broker) convinces the senior to drastically alter their investment strategies. Retired individuals almost always need of of safe, secure investments to ensure they have funds to last indefinitely. Unfortunately, some brokers trick seniors into making unwise moves, often buying investments that do not make sense simply to increase the broker’s commission.

---The broker changes companies and convinces the senior to follow along. It is not uncommon for brokers who are willing to bend the rules to lose their position with respected firms. However, when they do, they may take clients with them to a new firm--particular seniors who have a sense of loyalty. The risk of exploitation of senior savings is far more likely at these times.

Don’t Wait, Act
Hundreds of millions of dollars are lost each and every year as a result of senior financial abuse. The problem continues to fly under the radar, because those with some suspicions of mistreatment remain silent. It is important not to wait until it is too late. Usually by the time any problem is uncovered, it is impossible to recover any money lost. There is little risked by at least asking about your suspicions and ensuring that your loved one is not being abused.


See Other Blog Posts:

Illinois Nursing home Negligence Case Filed As a Result of Leg Amputation

Five Tips for Detecting Elder Abuse or Neglect in Nursing Home Facilities

November 15, 2013

Help: My Widowed Parent Is Being Financially Exploited

by Levin & Perconti

Elder financial exploitation is often considered the most prevalent form of senior abuse. Estimates on the scope of the problem are notoriously difficult, because many seniors lie about being exploited, But, many peg the number at upwards of one in every ten seniors being taken advantage for their money in some capacity.

One of the reasons why it is difficult to curb this problem is that those abusing in this way infiltrate the lives of senior over a period of months or even years. Therefore, rooting out the mistreatment requires dealing with individuals that the seniors has entrenched relationships.

Illinois Senior Financial Exploitation
A real-world story in a recent Daily Herald highlights exactly how this situation often arises in our area. A local resident wrote in asking for help. His mother died eight years ago. Not long afterwards, the man’s now-81 year old father became “friends” with a much younger woman. The other woman has a daughter and it was not long before the senior man began treating the mother and daughter to gifts--including buying them a car and paying their bills.

Eventually the mother and daughter moved into the senior’s house where they have been living rent-free ever since. All told, the son believes that the two have used more than $100,000 of their father’s money. In fact, they are still living in the home. The son claims that his father knows the women are using him, but he is struggling to kick them out of his house. No matter what, it is hard to break bonds that have been built up over the years--even the most extremely unhealthy ones.

As often happens in these situations, the exploitation is beginning to affect the senior’s ability to live his retirement life in peace. The pair of women convinced the senior to take on over $25,000 in credit card debt on the daughter’s behalf--the man had to withdraw money from his retirement account to pay that off.

Act. Get Help.
The most important thing to remember if you or someone you know is facing this situation is not to stay silent. If left unchallenged, those abusing a senior are unlikely to stop until they take everything they can. The article helpfully points to a key resources in these disputes: The Illinois Department on Aging. The state agency has an intervention program that is designed to step in in just these situation and determine if abuse is occurring. The intervention service can be reach as 1-800-252-8966 on weekdays and 1-800-279-0400 on weekends.

Do not forget that this exploitation can take place anywhere--even in situations that you might assume are secure. For example, our team of attorneys know that outright theft and exploitation even takes place inside some long-term care facilities. If these homes are not careful in who they hire, staff members are often in a position to take valuable possessions or even access resident financial accounts. When that happens, not only may criminal charges be brought against the wrongdoer, but, in some cases, the home itself may be held accountable for its lapses which allowed the mistreatment to occur.

See Other Blog Posts:

Fines for Nursing Home Administrator After Sexual Abuse

Settlement in Nursing Home Kickback Case

July 3, 2013

Illinois Nursing Home Residents Lose $100,000 from Administrator Theft

by Levin & Perconti

When considering misconduct and abuse of power at nursing homes, most residents and their families worry about physical abuse and neglect. Far too many have been forced to deal with a senior loved one’s untimely death or serious injury which could have been prevented if caregivers had simply done their job up to reasonable standards.

Yet lurking on top of the persistent threat of neglect is also the risk that those paid to provide care will intentionally abuse their position for financial gain. Trust is at the center of the resident-nursing home relationship. That is why stories like one coming out of Champaign are maddening--a reminder that all those involved in nursing home care administration, if they choose, can cause serious damage to those who count of them.

Systematic Senior Financial Exploitation
As reported by McKnights, a former administrator for the large nursing home chain HCR ManorCare was arrested in Champaign, Illinois recently on a dozen criminal counts, including theft, forgery, and financial exploitation of the elderly. The charges stem from alleged conduct which resulting in over $100,000 being taken from nursing home residents

All told, according to reports, over a four and a half year period the woman in question was in charge of bookkeeping for the a 102-bed long-term care facility in the area. During that time she used her role to steal the funds from 18 different residents, more than a hundred thousand dollars.

The central Illinois detective who worked on the case explained the alleged-criminal’s common modus operandi, noting, “She was making false entries into the books and physically writing checks to herself. She was the authorized signer on the account, and in some cases, she was forging the signatures of other employees who were authorized signers.”

It remains unclear if those who were the victims of the theft will receive any of their funds back. In many cases of a similar nature, the money is long gone by the time that the misdeeds are uncovered--leading the senior to struggle to recover financially. That is why it is important to take reasonable steps to prevent such crimes before they actually occur.

Proper Hiring Decisions
As this sad case demonstrates, because of the setting, virtually anyone working in long-term care facilities can use their position to cause immense harm--physical, emotional, mental, or financial--on the residents who count on their proper care.

For this reason it is absolutely critical that nursing homes make employment choices very carefully. It is not enough to simply hire anyone and place them in these settings without clearly understanding their risk of using the situation to their own advantage. In most cases when an employee in these positions abuses their position or acts negligently the facility itself may bear some responsibility.

The attorneys at our firm have worked on cases of this nature for decades. We understand the immense anger and sadness that comes with trust placed with a facility is broken with serious results. Contact our office to learn more about your legal rights if this has happened to you.

See Other Blog Posts:

Supreme Court Issues Opinion in Important Pharmaceutical Case

Ex-Chicago Cub Kerry Wood Discovers Body of Nursing Home Resident

December 17, 2012

Protecting Senior Pocketbooks - Who Is At Risk

by Levin & Perconti

ElderCare Locator recently put out a helpful new guide that delves into an issue that the attorneys at our firm often discuss: senior financial exploitation. This issue has been gaining more and more attention over the past few years, which is a welcome change. However, there is still a long way to go before no senior suffers as a result of being swindled or tricked. The first step in making a real dent on the problem is education, as more and more community members should understand the warning signs and know what to do when exploitation is identified.

That is what the new guide comes is. You can download your own copy of the brief brochure here.

Not a Minor Problem
The guide notes that the most reliable estimates suggest that about 5 million seniors are harmed in this way each and every year. This is not a limited problem but a widespread issue. In fact, even though awareness of the problem is growing--the actual number of affected seniors may still be rising. With more sophisticated tools to defraud and confusion over certain financial matters, seniors remain easy targets for financial criminals. According to some reports, upwards of $3 billion are taken by scammers of seniors each and every year. Considering the tight budgets with which many seniors live, even theft of small amounts of money can have very serious effects on their lives. This is not just about money, but ensuring that the senior abuse does not result is real harm to our elderly friends and family member’s ability to live their golden years in comfort.

Who Is Most At Risk
Financial exploitation can happen to anyone--not just seniors. However, because of their unique situation, older community members are prime targets. Certain seniors may actually be far more likely to be hurt in this way. Elderly community members most at risk include:

-Those who have just lost a spouse who handled money matter. Many seniors are thrown into unfamiliar territory when they lose a loved one who previously dealt with finances. Beyond the grief and sadness, these seniors are forced to learn quickly about the best way to protect themselves from exploitation.

- Seniors who live alone, without a large groups of family members or elder care advisors. Many older residents live very isolated lives and may go months or even years without others taking a look at their financial books. It is usually only when tragedy strikes that anyone ever learns of the problem .

-Seniors in long-term care settings, like a nursing home. There are far too many cases of residents having money stolen by those charged with providing support in these settings. In addition, however, even those outside the setting (including friends and family) sometimes view the situation as opportunity to loot the senior’s accounts or property.

There is no easy way to prevent all cases of exploitation. However, one key theme is proper outside observation and support. Those who are most likely to be harmed are those who do not have support from outsiders who check on the situation. Yet, the seniors who lack that third-party support now are the least likely to ask for help if they need it. That means that it is important for others to be proactive--do not ignore your suspicions.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

How the Brain Makes Seniors Susceptible to Scams

Using the Holidays to Check for Elder Financial Exploitation

December 5, 2012

How the Brain Makes Seniors Susceptible to Scams

by Levin & Perconti

$2.9 billion. That is how much senior Americans lose each and every year to various scams, according to MetLife's Mature Market Institute. These scams take many different forms, from fake charity donations and false lottery winnings to unnecessary home repairs and outright theft from bank accounts. All those who care about protecting the health, well-being, and finances of local seniors should take the time to talk to loved ones about these issues.

However, it is often very difficult to have conversations with aging parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or elderly friends. That is because many seniors are understandably sensitive about their ability to handle their own affairs. After all, they likely spent a lifetime taking care of themselves through the good times and the bad, and it may come off as insensitive to suggest that their mental capacity has deteriorated in any way. The challenge of many of these conversations is one reason why many local residents may put off ensuring their loved ones financial security until it is too late.

This is a mistake. While there may be no way to completely get around some of the challenges of these conversations, they are mandatory nonetheless. In fact, new research into the causes of senior financial exploitation might actually make these conversations a bit more tolerable. That is because brain researchers are finding that susceptibility to scams is not necessarily related to mental capacity but changes in the way the brain operates in old age.

Brain Scans & Financial Scams
According to the latest research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and discussed in an NBC News article, reserachers have found that differences in the way that seniors process visual cues may be at the root of their increased risk of falling for financial scams. Much more work still needs to be completed. However, if verified, the research suggests that general cognitive decline is not necessarily at play when discussing the vulnerabilites of seniors and financial exploitation.
As part of the research, investigators tested volunteers of all ages on their perceptions of faces that were designed to be perceived as "trustworthy" and "untrustworthy." They then asked participants to rate each face based upon their perceived trustworthiness levels. Researchers found that seniors were far less likely to identify facial cues that were intended to trigger decietfulness (i.e. a false smile).

Hoping to delve deeper, researchers went futher and conducted fMRI scans on participant brains when performing the same facial trustworthiness test. Surprisingly, they found that there were very clear brain activation differences between younger and older adults when examining the faces. In particular, for young people the untrustworthy faces triggered significant activation in a part of the brain known as the anterior insula. The same was not true for seniors This area of the brain is known to be connected to fear and suspicion.

The team summarized by nothering that, "a diminished ‘gut’ response to cues of untrustworthiness may partially underlie older adults’ vulnerability to fraud.”

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Using the Holidays to Check for Elder Financial Exploitation

Elderly Man Loses Thousands in Phone Scam

November 26, 2012

Using the Holidays to Check for Elder Financial Exploitation

by Levin & Perconti

Any time is a good time to talk with the senior loved ones in your life about the possibility of senior fraud. As we have frequently discussed here, the theft of money and property from senior citizens remains an incredibly robust problem, affecting far more people than most suspect. The swindling takes many froms, from unfairly convincing seniors to give away money unnecessarily to outright theft. In virtually all cases it is criminal, but it is very difficult to identify every time that it occurs. That is why most observers continue to suggest that proactive steps need to be taken by family and friends to both guard against the financial mistreatment and identify when it has occurred.

A new story from Forbes suggests that holiday gatherings might prove a good time to address these issues. Over the next few weeks, many families will get together in various ways to commemorate the season. For that reason, it is an ideal time to careully broach the topic. Of course, bringing up questions related to senior finances and possible abuse is more of an art than a science. Asking "Have you had money taken from you unfairly in recent months?" is not likely to go over well. Instead, it is best to simply slowly ask about any recent financial opportunties or similar tangential issue that might hint at possible exploitation.

This same call is being made from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Assistant Secretary for Aging in the department recently issued a similar refrain declaring that, "this holiday season, we encourage families to spend some time asking older family members some basic questions to ensure that their finances are in good hands and that if there are signs of abuse, that the right steps are taken to stop it.”

The article also includes a helpful list of basic talking points that are always good to discuss when having conversations about financial exploitation. Some of those include:

--Never make a large investment or purchase alone. Have a friend or relative review the deal beforehand. This is good advice for everyone, not just seniors.

--Never provide personal information over the phone unless you are very clear about who you are apeaking with and what they are using the information for. This includes things like credit card numbers, birthdays, and social security numbers.

--Never hire someone to help in your home without knowing their background, using a screening company, or otherwise feeling comfortable with their track record. Many seniors have property stolen or are otherwise taken advantage of by those who enter their home to perform various tasks.

--Never ignore your suspicions. Far too often seniors (and their loved ones) have general concerns about a certain relationship or arrangement but fail to do anything about it. In many cases, this simply allows a wrongdoer to get away with the scam. It is important to know that many resources exist to help in these situations. For example, the National Center on Elder Abuse recently published a guide (see it here) that delves into many senior financial abuse issues. It also includes some resources for those wanting to report problems or learn more about how these scams work and the potential ramifications.

At the end of the day, it is up to all of us to work together help prevent senior exploitation in all settings and ensure those who engage in this conduct are held accountable. There is nothing to gain from staying silent. Please take a moment to ensure the senior loved ones in our life are thriving in their golden years and not being abused in any way.

See Our Related Blog Posts:
Man Steals Thousands in Phone Scam

Elder Care Worker Steals Wedding Ring from Hospice Patient

January 8, 2011

Health Care Worker Steals $83,000 From Elderly Man Before His Death

by Levin & Perconti

RGJ News reported this week on another sad example of elder financial exploitation. In this case, a 59-year old healthcare worker at the Veteran Affair’s Sierra Nevada Hospital took advantage of a senior patient of the facility.

The scamming worker befriended the elderly man while assisting with his nursing needs. After the victim left the hospital the woman continued to communicate with the man, occasionally doing household chores for him. Eventually she used her influence to gain access to his bank accounts. Once she had that ability it was free reign to exploit his finances for personal gain.

All told she forged checks and withdrew money from ATMs, taking over $83,000 of the victim’s savings. She also used his debit cards to buy personal items. The thief was not apprehended until earlier this week, over 6 months after the victim’s death. She is accused of various frauds centering on her elderly financial exploitation.

Continue reading "Health Care Worker Steals $83,000 From Elderly Man Before His Death" »

December 11, 2010

Medical Coverage For Senior Citizens Targeted By Scammers

by Levin & Perconti

Our Chicago nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti spend much of our time working for victims of negligent and abusive nursing home treatment. Many seniors in nursing homes struggle every day because the care provided leaves them open to sickness, injury, and attack.

However, those seniors who remain out of nursing homes and living on their own have other vulnerabilities which are often exploited by the unscrupulous. WISTV reported on a new senior scam that is targeted at the elderly involving health care. Making decisions about Medicare coverage is an inherently tricky but important process for all seniors. Unfortunately it now also involves the risk of falling victim to a scam related to that coverage.

Reports are coming in involving scammers who are contacting elderly Americans and pretending to be Medicare employees. The callers are then asking the senior for personal and financial information related to the Medicare Part “D” prescription drug plan. When that information is given out, the scam artist can then use it to exploit the victim’s finances.

One state official explains that, “There are going to be people that give out information and have their identities used in a very inappropriate way and lose financial means over it.”

Continue reading "Medical Coverage For Senior Citizens Targeted By Scammers" »

November 5, 2010

Former Social Worker Steal Money From Vulnerable Seniors

by Levin & Perconti

Our Chicago nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti most commonly work with victims and their families following deadly medical complications or injuries that a nursing home resident suffers following abuse and neglect by the facility. However, while that might be the most common form of elder neglect that actually makes it to the courtroom, there may be other forms of abuse that occur just as frequently (if not more). One such problem is the misuse, exploitation, and downright theft of elderly financial resources.

For example, WSLS 2 News reported last week on a tragic example of financial exploitation by a former social worker. The 36-year-old abuser had spent time working for several different elderly patients. One of those patients, an 89-year old woman, ultimately had her bank account drained of almost $25,000 during a ten month period in 2009. Shortly after, the worker then used her role to take more nearly $9,000 from another elderly resident in her care. Authorities believe that the criminal used the funds for a variety of personal items like cloths and groceries.

In another care the same social worker abused her position as caregiver for a dementia patient. She wrote checks to herself without the patient’s consent and used the victim’s ATM card. The worker even went so far as lying to bank authorities to acquire new checks for the woman and then using those checks for personal items.

The US States Attorney prosecuting the case explained, “Rather than safeguarding the resources of the elderly victims who put their trust in her, [the social worker] stole from them…Her actions were despicable and call for a harsh response.”

Far too often the rights of these vulnerable victims are never discovered or vindicated. All community members need to remain on the look-out for possible abuse of the seniors around them to ensure that elder abuse in all forms is stamped out.

August 31, 2010

Bank Teller Charged With Stealing Money From Elderly Aunt

by Levin & Perconti

A troubling news story from the San Mateo Daily Journal discusses another example of financial elder abuse.

A bank teller in Redwood City is charged with felony fiscal elder abuse after she stole more $40,000 from her own aunt. While working as a teller, Arcelia Barajas Aguilar had close access to the funds of the bank customers. She was able to transfer money from one customer’s account to another. Early last month, Aguilar apparently transferred $40,000 from her aunt’s account into her own personal account.

Aguilar apparently used the money to pay down her credit card debt. Fortunately, the fraud was discovered during a bank audit. Aguilar was arrested and is now on bail. It is unclear how much money remains of the total that she stole. The judge warned the Aguilar’s sentence could ultimately be affected by the amount of restitution she is able to make—how much money she can pay back.

This story raises unique questions about the ultimate effectiveness of attempts to curb elder financial abuse. Our Chicago elder abuse attorneys at Levin & Perconti have long been advocates of taking steps to limit the chance for vulnerable seniors to have their finances exploited. This year the Illinois Legislature passed a bill which will attempt to help stop the problem by educating those in a position to notice fraudulent actions with senior finances—bank tellers. Of course, abuses like the one committed by Aguilar would probably not have been stopped by Illinois’ attempted remedy. There is little training that can be done to raise awareness of the problem if the people being trained are the very ones willing to commit fraud to steal cash from seniors.

This recent abuse is only more reason for everyone, no matter how often you interact with senior family and friends, to remain constantly vigilant to the potential of exploitation. What makes this a particularly complex problem is that the abuse very often occurs at the hands of family members themselves, as in the Aguilar case. It is hard enough for many elderly citizens to recognize when they are being taken advantage of by strangers, let alone family members who they are likely to trust even more.

August 23, 2010

Nursing Home Patients Signed Up for Insurance Without Their Knowledge

by Levin & Perconti

Nursing home abuse and exploitation takes many forms. The vulnerability of many of our elderly residents at these facilities make them prime targets for anyone who wishes to force themselves upon them because of their often mentally or physically weakness. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, mental, or even financial.

For example, a recent case reported at Alabama Local News involves four nursing home residents being involuntarily enrolled in insurance programs that they did not want.

Officials in the state arrested Kimberly Bisslessi Eddins last week after evidence surfaced showing that she signed up four separate residents of the nursing home Coventry Health Care for insurance. In order to receive the commissions on the sales of these insurance packages, Eddins secretly signed up the vulnerable patients for insurance coverage starting in late 2008. In total, the fraudulent sales netted Eddins over $3,800 in commissions and cost the residents untold fees in premiums.

In is unclear form the report exactly how Eddins was able to access the necessary information from the residents to make the illegal sign-ups. She had gathered their names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers.

This latest form of exploitation of the elderly is just another example to be added to the many that our Chicago nursing home attorneys at Levin & Perconti have seen after decades of fighting for abused residents at these facilities. Most residents are brought into nursing homes specifically because it is assumed that they are too vulnerable to avoid injury, and exploitation if they remain living without close supervision. However, as this and countless other examples demonstrate, the vulnerabilities of these residents continue to be taken advantage of while livining in long-term care facilities. In fact, being forced to live in substandard nursing facilities makes it even more likely that a residents’ mental or physical state will be exploited. Be sure to keep a close eye on all the activities of your elderly loved ones, and contact a nursing home lawyer today if you suspect any problems with their care.

August 19, 2010

Receptionist Steals Funds From Nursing Home Residents

by Levin & Perconti

Yesterday we posted an example of elder financial abuse involving the complex swindling a Chicago area senior citizen. In that case, the retiree was cajoled out of $500,000 after investing money with a con-man whom he assumed was using the funds to develop a construction business.

Today, the St. Petersburg Times discusses another form of senior financial exploitation on the other end of the spectrum—the outright theft of money from nursing home resident accounts.

Until her firing yesterday, Janice Lynn Smith was the receptionist at Heritage Park, a nursing home near Miami. As with many other employees at nursing homes, Smith was in a position to gain access to the accounts of the nursing home residents. Apparently, the ability to steal from these vulnerable residents at the facility was too much for her to resist.

Smith began taking money out of the trust funds of four residents at the facility, all of whom were over 85 years old. In the end, she withdrew nearly $4,000 from these resident accounts and put it in her own pocket. Fortunately, other nursing home staff noticed problems with the trust accounts. The nursing home administrator began investigating the problem, ultimately revealing the truth about Smith and the theft.

In most cases of elder financial abuse, the problem goes unreported and victims are never compensated for their losses. Many states, including Illinois, have recently begun programs to help stem the wave of elder abuse problems, but much work remains before the problem is truly extinguished.

Our Chicago nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti spend our time fighting for nursing home residents because we understand their vulnerability while living at these facilities. Elderly residents often depend on nursing home staff members to help both with their physical well-being as well as their financial well-being. Any facility that allows its staff members to take advantage of that vulnerability for personal gain needs to be held accountable for their negligence.

August 18, 2010

Chicago Area Man Victim of Elder Financial Exploitation

by Levin & Perconti

The Chicago Tribune recently published a troubling story of financial abuse affecting an elderly man from nearby Des Plaines.

Will Harling is seventy one years old, a fact that he believes made him a more attractive target for his abuser, Taha Mahmood. Mr. Harling met Mahmood through a mortgage underwriter, and the two began discussing possible business opportunities. Mahmood seemed to say all the right things, even claiming to have gone to the same high school at Mr. Harling. Eventually, Mr. Harling agreed to assist Mahmood in starting a construction business. However, the funds that were provided to help jump-start the new project were never used to build the business. Instead, they went straight into Mohmood’s pocket.

The ruse was taken to new heights when Mahmood manufactured a fake loan approval document (totaling $2.6 million) in order to convince Harling that the project was progressing. Eventually the repossession of a Rolls-Royce that had been purchased under Mr. Harling’s name alerted him to the fraud.

In total, the con-man stole almost $500,000 from his elderly neighbor. Mr. Harling is now struggling to stay afloat. He is still not sure whether he will be able to afford to keep him home.

Mahmood’s exploitation of Will Harling seems to be merely one incident in a string of fraudulent actions that swindled funds from innocent parties. In another case, a businessman from Highland Park agreed to finance a small business trip led by Mahmood. In the end, an unnecessary private jet was chartered and the businessman was out $127,000. In other cases, the scheming con-man was charged with writing $11,000 worth of bad checks and stealing $4,000 from a high-end department store.

Our Chicago nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti are continually disgusted by the length that some will go to take advantage of our vulnerable senior citizens. This form of elder financial exploitation occurs all too frequently, including at nursing homes. Recent efforts have attempted to raise awareness of the problem, but the risk of senior financial abuse remains high. Please remain vigilant to possible exploitation of elderly family and friends.

August 1, 2010

Health Care Aides Steal From Elderly Resident

by Levin & Perconti

Yet another example of elder financial abuse is being reported in Poughkeepsie Journal. Two female aides were working at the Lake View Arms apartment complex, assisting the elderly residents who lived in the units with basic health and household upkeep tasks.

However, authorities recently discovered that the aides were stealing from the elderly residents to whom they were providing care. The women stole cash, blank checks, and personal property from the vulnerable seniors who they were supposed to be serving. Luckily, police officers were made aware of the theft and arrested the women before they were able to commit any additional acts of robbery. As reported often on this blog, the vast majority of cases of elder financial abuse are never reported. Several billion dollars are taken from seniors each year.

Our Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys at Levin & Perconti encourage more vigilant oversight of the financial transactions of our all vulnerable seniors. Many seniors have no choice but to place enormous trust in the care workers who are supposed to assist in their daily needs. All too often, those workers are unable to resist the temptation to take advantage of their authority and steal the resources of the senior. Sadly, most seniors have no one to stand up to their abusers, and so the thieves get away.

This abuse occurs at the hand of nursing home workers, at-home aides, and even family members of the victim. While many officials are working to limit the problem, there is still enormous work to do before our seniors are protected and respected. Please contact an elder lawyer if you know of any suspicious elder financial abuse.

July 29, 2010

The Many Forms of Elder Financial Abuse

by Levin & Perconti

The Quad City Times recently highlighted the widespread problem of elder financial abuse and the various forms in which it occurs.

Elderly residents remain vulnerable to being taken advantage of in many circumstances. For example, Brian Lovett was startled to discover that his 94-year old mother had written various checks to public safety organization, a rodeo, and police organization hundreds of miles from her Iowa home. Mr. Lovett’s mother died this year, suffering from dementia for several years before her passing. He believes that these organizations kept soliciting his mother because she mentally wasn’t aware of where her donations were going, even though she had no connection to their services.

While Ms. Lovett’s example may exist on the borderline of financial exploitation, thousands of other seniors each year are purposefully targeted and swindled out of the savings that they spent their lives earning. Estimates suggest that $2.6 billion each year is taken from vulnerable seniors due to elder financial abuse.

In fact, many elder service professionals report that cases of financial abuse are much more frequent than direct neglect and abuse. One bank officer explained one common form of the problem, noting, “In my experience, we have to be careful of what we call ‘professional beneficiaries.’ These are people who gain a senior’s trust and then get control of their finances.”

Illinois recently passed a new law intending to help train bank employees to recognize the red flags that suggest elder financial abuse. However, even with that training, elder abuse is still likely to occur, because only a fraction of cases is ever reported. Our Chicago nursing home attorneys at Levin & Perconti are well aware of the financial abuse of many elderly residents. We have seen the abuse occur at the hand of family members, friends, and at nursing homes. We encourage everyone to remain vigilant and active in rooting out the problem. Contact nursing home lawyers if you know of any elder abuse or neglect.

July 22, 2010

Caregiver Arrested For Elder Financial Abuse

by Levin & Perconti

ABC7 News is reporting of another example of the vulnerable financial situation of many senior citizens. In an appalling case of elder financial exploitation, a ninety year old woman, Marian McGlone, had hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen from her savings by her caregiver, Erma Jean Williams.

Ms. Williams is accused of taking nearly $200,000 from the elderly woman and her husband. Ms. McGlone experienced mental instability as she aged becoming confused about situations and having difficulty with her memory. Her caregiver took advantage of that weakness, ultimately using the elderly woman’s money to remodel her home and buy a new care, among other illegal abuses. The true extent of what was taken by the greedy caregiver may never fully be known.

In fact, as Ms. McGlone’s health deteriorated even further, Erma Jean Williams attempted to ensure that theft could last even longer by trying to get Ms. McGlone to change her will to include Ms. Williams. On two different occasions Erma Jean forced Ms. McGlone to visit an attorney and attempt to change the will. Luckily, it was obvious from the elderly woman’s mental condition that she was not stable enough to change the document. The attorneys at the office were vigilant enough to ensure that the abuse did not continue.

Ms. McGlone died two weeks after the last attempt to change her will. Shortly after her passing the extent of Ms. Williams abuse finally came to light. It was also discovered that Erma Jean had several previous arrests that were unknown to the McGlone children when they were looking for a caregiver for their mother.

As we’ve recently documented on this blog, elder financial abuse is an shockingly large problem that receives far too little attention. Some estimates claim that one in five elderly individuals are victims of similar conduct. It occurs in all circumstances, between family members, at-home caregivers, and at nursing homes. Our Chicago nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti have seen the abuse case after case. That is why we approve of measures taken this week by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, which require bank officials to do more to ensure that they report questionable financial transactions with their elderly customers.

It is often very difficult to detect abuse of elderly finances. If you suspect you know a victim, please contact our office today to learn about your options.

May 17, 2010

Financial Exploitation of the Elderly an Ever-growing Problem in Illinois

by Levin & Perconti

Financial exploitation of the elderly has become a large problem within the elderly community. The State Journal-Register is reporting that a Hillsboro, Illinois man was arrested for his involvement in the financial exploitation of an elderly person. The thirty year old man reportedly had an arrangement with an elderly person in the area to do miscellaneous work. This person then became a victim when the defendant was given blank signed checks to buy materials for the projects. The man then used the blank checks to buy more than $300 worth of personal items. Deputies were able to uncover several items purchased by the defendant with the victim’s money while executing a search warrant in his residence. To read more about this specific case of the financial exploitation of the elderly, please click the link.

Illinois has a specific statute that prohibits the financial exploitation of an elderly person. Under 720 ILCS 5/15-1.3 a person commits the offense of financial exploitation of an elderly person when they “stand in a position of trust or confidence with the elderly person and by deception or intimidation controls over the property of an elderly person or uses the assets of that person." This is a class 4 felony if the property is less than $300, a class 3 felony if less than $5,000 but more than $300 and a class 2 felony if in between $5,000 and $10,000. Finally, if a person exploits an elderly or disabled person out of more than $10,000 it is a class one felony. All felonies are punishable with jail time. If you believe you or a loved one is a victim of financial exploitation of the elderly we recommend that you contact your local law enforcement. If this exploitation occurred in an Illinois nursing home, you may also have a case for nursing home abuse. Please consult a Chicago nursing home attorney to further discuss your case and your legal options.

April 14, 2010

Illinois Lawyer is Charged with Financial Exploitation of an Elder

by Levin & Perconti

Thetelegraph.com is reporting that authorities have charged an Alton, Illinois attorney with embezzling more than $137,000 from an elderly woman. The attorney had met this woman at a church and offered to help her obtain a payment for her probate case in which she was a litigant. The 62 year old man was charged in Madison County Court with unlawful financial exploitation of an elderly person. This is based on the evidence that he obtained a check written payable to the 81-year-old victim.

The Illinois lawyer was arrested after a police office obtained an eavesdrop order and placed a recording device on the elderly victim. The case was originally being handled by attorneys based in other states and the defendant told the woman he would write the checks in an effort to expedite the case. After many inquiries into the whereabouts of the check, the elderly woman hired another lawyer to investigate the elderly financial exploitation. The authorities discovered that the check had been sent by the out of state lawyers and that the defendant had deposited the check into his own personal account. His license has been suspended for a year.

Financial exploitation has become a common form of elderly abuse. According to the NCEA financial exploitation is defined as the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, properties or assets. Many times this falls in the hands of the attorney or estate executor. To read more about the specific case of Illinois financial abuse, please click the link.

February 2, 2010

Nursing Home Employee Charged with Financial Abuse

by Levin & Perconti

A nursing home employee was stealing from nursing home residents. The 44-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of fraudulent use of credit cards, petit theft, financial exploitation of the elderly, bank fraud, grand theft and fraudulent use of personal identification information. At first nursing home residents reported missing checks at the retirement community. However, later there were many more items missing from the home. One elderly victim reported that the employee stole a $5,000 14-karat charm bracelet and a $2,5000 ring from her. Another elderly victim had an expensive necklace and gold chain taken. The woman then is accused of taking the items to a pawn shop. Financial exploitation of the elderly has become a common form of elderly abuse. If you or someone you love has been a victim of nursing home theft, consult a Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer. To read more about this specific nursing home employee, please check out the link

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January 22, 2010

Woman Charged with Identity Theft at a Nursing Home

by Levin & Perconti

A nursing-home worker is accused of stealing the identity of a resident living under her care. Employees at the nursing home contacted the Sheriff’s department when they received credit card statements for the resident with charges that had not been authorized. She supposedly bought furniture, a television and other items with the resident’s credit card and forged the resident’s signature to steal money from two bank accounts. She is accused of taking $16,000 from the elderly resident. Financial exploitation of nursing home residents has become all too commonplace. To learn more about this incident of financial exploitation and elder abuse, please click the link.