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:
- Checks were described as a gift in the memo and some included amounts up to $50,000.
- One of the employees is accused of stealing at least $191,000.
- Children of an employee cashed some of the checks.
- A private contracted caretaker is also accused of cashing two checks, totaling $50,000.
Chicago police have also opened a criminal investigation into the allegations and the resident has since been moved to a separate nursing home residence. The legal team hopes to start the process to recover the stolen money, hopefully with the help of Symphony administrators in releasing all requested documents regarding the financially exploited resident to expose the many counts of alleged theft. When staff members are found guilty, they should be forced to repay the money to the victim to support her ongoing care needs.
Recognizing Financial Abuse
Memory disorders, such as dementia or Parkinson’s, are debilitating diseases for any person to battle but especially tough to manage while residing in a nursing home where patients are left upon the care and oversight of workers and staff versus trusted family and friends. Unfortunately, residents who suffer from memory and mind-altering disorders are often most susceptible to financial abuse, amongst other forms. It is estimated that as many as 1 in 5 nursing home residents have been victims of financial abuse.
Financial abuse to nursing home residents can happen over time, making it one of the most difficult crimes to detect. Elderly are more vulnerable to this type of abuse for a number of reasons including less access and comprehension to banking technology. Those living in nursing homes may be less capable, both physically and mentally, to check-in on savings and take care of their finances properly and may rely on others to assist them. Some of the most common examples of financial abuse include:
- Forging Resident’s Signature
- Cashing Resident’s Checks without Authorization
- Taking Money or Property
- Using a Resident’s Bank Card or Checks
- Deceit or Forcing Resident to Sign Over Money or Possessions
- Improper Power of Attorney
Residents may be very trusting to even those who are not dishonest making financial abuse difficult to spot. It is important to understand some of the common signs of this type of incidence. Relatives and friends of nursing home residents need to be aware of these signs so that they can act should one of these red flags pop up.
- Changes in Financial Status
- Unexplained Withdrawals
- Missing Money from Purse, Wallet or Room
- Resident Unable to Make Regular Purchases
- Personal Belongings That Go Missing
- Unauthorized Names Added to Bank Account
- Reluctance to Discuss Finances
- Request for Additional Funds
The warning signs of financial abuse are nothing to ignore. Any type of stealing or misappropriation is not only immoral, it usually creates a trail of criminal behavior against other nursing home residents being financially exploited.
Staff Are Often Overworked and Underpaid
Even though, in this case, Symphony officials opened their own investigation and made the right choice to contact law enforcement about the financial abuse suspicions, the 248-bed facility in Cook County can’t seem to shake the chronic issues tied to poor staffing, the majority who are overworked and underpaid. The nursing home group is continuously cited in inspections for “not providing enough nursing staff every day to meet the needs of every resident; and have a licensed nurse in charge on each shift.”
It is important to make sure that the finances of our loved ones in nursing homes are protected. There is legal recourse for those who have been taken advantage of financially. The Illinois nursing home attorneys at Levin & Perconti can help if the personal finances of a loved one or patient have been mishandled during a stay at a Symphony Post-Acute Network facility or any other Illinois nursing home. Financial abuse of any kind is not acceptable and when it occurs, questions should be asked as to how and punishment should follow.
Chicago’s Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorneys
Levin & Perconti is one of the most widely-known and respected nursing home abuse and neglect law firms in Illinois, achieving multiple million dollar verdicts and settlements for individuals and families who have been impacted by all types of nursing home abuse, malpractice, or neglect.
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