RECENT FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION CASES

I thought this week I would include financial exploitation cases.  These cases wreak havoc on the lives of the victims and their families.

The first case is State of Arizona v. Giles. Linda Giles was convicted of  murdering, abusing  and stealing from James Carafas, an 84-year-old widower.  She had known him and his deceased wife for some time.  When his wife died, she emerged.

Carafas was still grieving over the loss of his wife, Mary.  Carafas was losing his eyesight and hearing when Giles took advantage of him. Giles emotionally and financially exploited Carafas.

Giles persuaded Carafas to name her his sole beneficiary, put more than $100,000 into a bank account for her and open a joint account with her. Carafas also put her on the deeds of more than a dozen rental properties he owned.

On November 2006, Giles ran over him with his truck in his driveway and killed him. Giles was sentenced to 18.5 years for theft from a vulnerable adult and 1.75 years for vulnerable-adult abuse and ran them concurrently to each other, and concurrently to the manslaughter charge for 10.5 years.   The judge also ordered Giles to pay $540,000 in restitution to Carafas’ beneficiaries.

The second case happened in North Central Florida involving  83-year-old Edward Bozarth and Ronald Hawk,63,  his caregiver.  Mr. Bozarth was, for the most part, independent but needed someone to  run errands and take him to his doctor appointments.  He never married or had any children.  His siblings were scattered around the country.  He sought help from Hawk, his neighbor.  They became friends.  In 2009, he was informed by health care workers that he needed a roommate or be placed in a nursing home.  Being independent, he asked Hawk to move in. Hawk  was living with his mother at the time.  In exchange, he would run errands and take him to his doctor appointments.  Bozarth had no idea that Hawk had a drug addiction.  In no time, Hawk turned Bozarth into a prisoner.  He started spending his military pension and Social Security checks and stole $50,000.00  in savings.  He stopped feeding him, running errands and stopped giving him his high blood pressure medication.  Hawk was trying to get life insurance for Bozarth.

Bozarth managed to sneak out of the apartment and went to Karen Garrison, the apartment manager.  He told her that he needed help and the police were called and Hawk was arrested. Karen Garrison is looking after him and he is living in a different unit rent free.

In these two cases, it is clear that the perpetrators exploit the needs of the victim. James Carafas was grieving and lonely and Edward Bozarth needed a roommate. They had put their trust in people who they thought really cared about their well-being.  Unfortunately, it costs Carafas his life.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them.

HOW SOME STATES ARE ADDRESSING THE FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION OF THE ELDERLY

The Senate Special Committee on Aging estimates that as many as five million elderly Americans suffer some form of abuse every year. They also think that 84% of elder abuse goes unreported.  Addressing it must involve legislative, social service, and economic experts. Even though  the federal government is taking a strong leadership role in addressing the problem of elder abuse, there are no federal laws in place. This is unacceptable!

I am glad to report that some states have taken some measures to address elder abuse, particularly the financial exploitation of the elderly. I will, in weeks to come, examine any law changes, cases and other states’ measures to protect our elderly. The two states that I have chosen for this week’s blog are California and New Hampshire.

California elder abuse laws including financial abuse laws are covered under Cal. Welfare & Institutions Code §15610.  In California, financial elder abuse laws apply to anyone 65 or older regardless of whether they have any diminished physical or mental capacity.  Financial elder abuse is defined as: when any person or entity “takes, secrets, appropriates, obtains or retains real or personal property of an elder for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud.”  It also includes “assisting” in the taking of any property of someone 65 or older.  The definition of “wrongful use” is: if the person “knew or should have known that this conduct is likely to be harmful to the elder.” While its intended comes from a good place, the law is to broad and vague.  Anyone with any knowledge of law knows the dangers of a law that is broad or vague.  It opens up a can of worms that defeats the purpose of the law.  This law could be applied to:

  1. employed seniors who may have been paid less due to lack of experience;
  2. an elder who accidentally received the wrong change during a purchase or any business transaction; and
  3. other employment matters.

The potential liability is extraordinary.  Hopefully, California will revisit this law and make the necessary modifications.

New Hampshire’s elder abuse statutes are under REV. STAT. § 631:8, Criminal Neglect of Elderly.  New Hampshire’s Attorney General’s Office has established The Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation Unit (EAU) in the fall of 2006 and conducted its first full year of operation in 2007. The primary responsibility of the Unit is to prevent, investigate, and prosecute crimes involving elderly victims of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation on a statewide basis. The Unit consists of a prosecutor and an investigator. The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office recognized that there were gaps in the local and state organizations working together on this issue.

The Unit has prosecuted cases involving physical abuse and financial exploitation such as property and identity theft, home improvement fraud, forgery, embezzlement, and fraud involving misuse of an elder’s assets by a fiduciary acting under a guardianship or power of attorney. Successful criminal prosecutions resulted in jail time for many defendants, as well as the recovery of thousands of dollars in restitution for senior victims. In one instance, EAU was successful  in convicting a woman who failed to provide her elderly, disabled mother with the proper care she needed at home that resulted in the mother’s death. EAU also worked with public and private agencies to speak to seniors and others about elder abuse.  New Hampshire is definitely a leader in addressing this growing problem.

This growing problem can only be addressed if people get involved.  Many seniors are losing their lives and savings.  Please report any incidents to the local authorities.  You can find out your elder abuse hotline by visiting www.nccafv.org.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them.

THE DYNAMICS OF ELDER ABUSE

Before going into further discussions about the financial exploitation of the elderly, I thought that it would be important to discuss some dynamics.

Seniors, according to recent studies are the fastest growing population in the world. In fact, according to http://www.seniorliving.about.com, “this increase can be attributed to “advances in science, technology and medicine leading to reductions in infant and maternal mortality, infectious and parasitic diseases, occupational safety measures, and improvements in nutrition and education.” It also stated that in 2000, “approximately 605 million people were 60 years or older. By 2050, that number is expected to be close to 2 billion. At that time, seniors will outnumber children 14 and under for the first time in history.” Also, people over 50 account for three quarters of the world’s wealth.
This has effected Social Security, retirement and pension plans, which uses actuarial tables, cost of health care, employment and housing. It should be noted that seniors account for over 50% of “discretionary spending power” in our country.’

In Australia, this has had a definite impact on the economy. According to Brad Crouch (2013) in the article Baby Boomers’ Can’t Retire at 65, Must Keep Working Longer,  Ageing Minister Mark Butler on http://www.adelaidenow.com.au, the pension bill has “rocketed from $16 billion to $21 billion. Butler has proposed that this group need to work longer in order to maintain their economy. He also referred to this group as being the “healthiest, wealthiest, best-educated generation of retirees in human history.”

Why are these facts important?  They are important because many baby boomers had planned their financial futures on their parents’ demise.  Also, the economy has also affected how seniors are being victimized.

Elder abuse has become the new “dirty secret” of the family. It strikes so close to home that families are embarrassed to admit that this occurs in their families. Many of the victims do not report it for the very same reason children do not report child abuse.  They are threatened, embarrassed or for some reason, feel as if it they are the blame.

Elder abuse has grown rapid in record numbers across this country. According the National Center for Elder Abuse/Administration (NCEA), http://www.ncea.aoa.gov, “elder abuse is an under-recognized problem with devastating and even life-threatening consequences.” NCEA along with the White House have initiated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Next week, I will further discuss the financial exploitation of the elderly. Please feel free to leave your comments or questions.

FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION OF THE ELDERLY

Last post I mentioned the various issues explored on this blog.  I will also post elder abuse news stories, elder law changes and recent cases involving elder abuse. There is one issue that is a growing problem among the elderly. That issue is financial exploitation.  This is also known as elder financial abuse.

What is financial exploitation of the elderly or elder financial abuse?  Simply put, it is when a person takes money or property from an elderly person for their own financial benefit.  In the state of Florida, its law (FSS 825.103) “states that when someone maliciously takes the property of an “elderly person,” they are committing exploitation”.  What makes this crime so serious is that the person committing this crime exploits the elder’s dependency on him/her.  Joe Roubicek (2013) in his book, Disposing of the Elderly for Profit (a must read), he mentions that the difference between exploitation and scamming is that “scammers prey on greed, exploiters prey on need.”

It is estimated that five million elders may be the victims of financial exploitation annually. The perpetrators vary. Most of these incidents are by family members who are in daily contact with the victim and estranged family members who suddenly are interested in the victim’s well-being.

According to http://www.ncea.aoa.gov, “older individuals may be targeted merely because they possess more assets, such as savings, annuities and retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, insurance policies, and property than younger people. Those with cognitive impairments, mental health conditions, or physical disabilities may be dependent upon others (family members, friends, formal and informal caregivers, or court appointed representatives) for assistance in making financial decisions or carrying out daily transactions, and therefore may be even more vulnerable to theft, exploitation or undue influence.”

One point that should be noted is that when a parent has been estranged from his children, he/she hopes that at least in their last years there could be a reconciliation. Unfortunately, many children use this to victims their parents. Parents often discover this too late.

According to http://www.kcrlegal.com, here are some examples of elder financial exploitation:

  • Preventing the elder from having access to his/her money and bank accounts
  • Forging the elder’s signature on checks and other documents
  • Adding an additional name to the elder’s bank account and withdrawing funds without permission of the elder
  • theft of money or property
  • Theft of ATM cards or credit cards
  • Deceiving or forcing an elder to sign a financial document, such as a will, a loan application or some other documents Selling an elder unnecessary or overpriced goods or services
  • Stealing an elder’s identity or financial data in order to steal the elder’s money or property
  • Deceiving an elder to invest in an overpriced scam
  • Deceiving an elder into borrowing money on a home with terms that guarantee he or she will default and lose equity
  • Improperly using an elder’s power of attorney or conservatorship.
  • Cashing checks without permission.

There are also other signs as well such as bank statements and canceled checks no longer come to the elder’s home, unpaid bills, notices to discontinue utilities or eviction notices, unusual activity in the older person’s bank accounts including large, unexplained withdrawals, frequent transfers between accounts, or ATM withdrawals, absence of proof about financial arrangements and outrageous explanations  given about the elderly person’s finances by the caregiver.

I will delve further into this issue next week and give some reasons why this is such a growing problem.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them.

WELCOME TO MY BLOG

I have worked in the trust and estate industry for many years and have seen some of the horrible stories of how the elderly are treated.  My goal is to educate you about the horrors of elder abuse, whether it is psychological, emotional, physical or financial.  Many of the facts you may find disturbing but it will give you a clear snapshot of this very serious social problem.

 
Statistics show that elder abuse is costing the United States about $3 billion a year. Despite the gravity and the cost involved, the federal government does not have a policy in place to report elder abuse, according to Stephanie Lee in the article Why is Elder Abuse a Social Problem on www.ehow.com.  The federal government acquiesces to the state and local governments to investigate and resolve this issue. 
 
Elder abuse does not get the attention it warrants because it hits too close to home and it is very uncomfortable for many to discuss. This is the reason why many elderly are not receiving the assistance they need. The goal of this blog is to change that.
 
In my next blog, I will discuss the growing problem of financial exploitation of the elderly. Please feel free to send me your comments and/or questions.
I am going to leave with you some facts, according to http://www.elder-law.laws.com, that are alarming:
  • There has been no nationally recognized or organized effort to understand elder abuse or to collect elderly abuse statistics.
  • Information and data suggests that over 1 million Americans over the age of 65 have been subjected to physical brutality, psychological abuse, sexual assault, or financial exploitation by an individual tasked with their care and support. Every year, over 400,000 elderly individuals experience some form of elder abuse. Elder abuse statistics estimate that up to 10% of elderly individuals eventually become victims of some type of abuse or neglect
  • Approximately one out of every 14 cases of elderly abuse occurs in a domestic setting such as the victim’s home
  • Elder abuse statistics indicate that elderly abuse investigations are substantially greater in states that have established mandatory reporting legislation
  • The large majority of elder abuse victims— almost 70%—are female. Ironically, over half of those that were responsible for this type of abuse and neglect were women.