Articles Posted in Financial abuse and exploitation

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nursing home theft

Public Guardian Says Dementia Resident Was Victim of Financial Corruption for Nearly a Year

Attorneys Steve Levin and Mike Bonamarte continue to offer legal support alongside acting Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert for a 97-year-old woman with dementia who was financially exploited by her nursing home care staff for the sum of three quarters a million dollars. It was initially believed the aging resident with dementia and no living relatives, Grace Watanabe, had her life savings of $600,000 taken from her by five care workers at Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park, located at 1366 W Fullerton Ave in Chicago. New information now suggests the amount stolen is actually closer to $750,000.

The legal team for Ms. Watanabe is working hard to recover the stolen money, hopefully with the help of Symphony administrators in releasing all requested documents regarding the financial exploitation. So far, one of the thieves has agreed to repay $15,000 to the victim.

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 nursing home theft

Symphony of Lincoln Park Workers Caught Stealing $600,000 from Resident with Dementia

Levin & Perconti attorneys Steve Levin and Mike Bonamarte have begun work with acting Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert on a local financial exploitation case involving a 97-year-old resident with cognitive and memory disorders who required assistance with her finances and trusted the staff workers at Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park, a senior facility where she had been living since 2010. The Cook County Public Guardian has since been appointed the temporary guardian after receiving news by the Illinois Department of Aging and Adult Protective Services of the financial exploitation allegations and suspicious spending between the resident’s bank account and facility employees. The Department receives more than 8,200 reports of financial exploitation involving nursing home residents each year.

It’s believed the aging resident, who previously led a life at an Arizona based Japanese internment camp during World War II against her will, and then worked hard in a career with the federal government, had earned a life savings of $600,000 which she was using to help care for herself at the Symphony facility. Because of her failing independence and need for mental health support, she required assistance in managing her savings but instead a group of workers took advantage. Today, five Symphony workers have been accused of spending their way through the woman’s personal life savings in a yearlong thieving scheme that included cashing checks, making large ATM withdrawals and accessing her funds without her consent. According to the lawsuit:

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elderly financial exploitation

3 Times Nursing Home Staff Stole and Were Caught

It feels as though nursing home staff seem to be caught stealing from vulnerable and sick residents and their facilities more often. Brought on by the nation’s opioid epidemic, staff steal medication and patient drugs most often, but theft can also be in the form of residents’ possessions or finances, and when executives swindle millions from the company and spend it on personal items or other investments. Here is a special review of three times Illinois nursing home staff stole, they were caught, and justice was served.

  1. Drug Theft
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CBS Chicago reports that Bridget Pollard, a 76 year old Rogers Park woman suffering from bipolar disorder and dementia was convinced to send a check for $340,000 to Grace Cathedral, a mega church run by televangelist Reverend Ernest Angley in Akron, Ohio. The church preached that those who gave generously would guarantee their entry to heaven.

Mrs. Pollard’s husband died in 2015 and with no children to look after her, she lived alone and was able to easily remove $340,000 from her late husband’s pension. Mrs. Pollard is reported to have repeatedly refused care by others, but after her insistent niece paid her a visit, she discovered her aunt living without heat, water, or electricity, and amongst old garbage and 44 stray cats. Her niece also discovered her aunt’s emptied bank account and instantly realized she had been taken advantage of by the mega church. After reporting the incident, Mrs. Pollard is now under The Cook County Public Guardian, who has taken the lead on pursing a lawsuit against the church in order to recover all of the $340,000 she was conned into donating.

Although Mrs. Pollard had only been to Grace Cathedral several times, she kept in touch with Corliss Whitney, a singer from the church who became her power of attorney and also attempted to become her legal guardian. According to the Cook County Public Guardian, given the lack of contact between the two, Ms. Whitney took advantage of Bridget Pollard as part of a scheme to take money from the elderly. It is believed that Ms. Whitney had never attempted to look after Mrs. Pollard’s health or well-being, or remove her from the dire situation inside her home.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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$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.

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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.”