Current Events

Former Oregon Judge & Attorney Faces More Elder Abuse Charges

This blog already posted about Robert Browning late last year about his alleged elder abuse.

Mr. Browning was arrested again and faces additional charges along with new charges related to his

A Forest Grove attorney, already accused in an elder abuse case against his former mother-in-law, has been arrested again and is facing more charges in the case along with new charges related to his former mother-in-law, Laura Sullivan.

Last week, a Washington County grand jury indicted Browning on 14 counts of first-degree criminal mistreatment, according to Capt. Mike Herb, a Forest Grove police spokesman.

The indictment, Herb said, is the result of a two-year investigation into Browning in connection with the financial exploitation of Sullivan and his mother, Josephine “Alice” Browning. Both victims have died, according to Forest Grove police.

Bellevue Group Home Worker Charged with Sexual Assault

Gary B. Rice and his wife are licensed by the state and paid by the state to provide care for adults with developmental disabilities. In an article earlier this month, the Seattle P-I reported a story about allegations of Rice’s sexual assault on a severely developmentally disabled woman.

Rice was apparently sitting on a couch with a woman who had profound mental health issues and began fondling the woman’s breasts. A witness who saw Rice’s alleged assault confronted him. Rice then reportedly asked the witness not to tell anyone.

But the witness called the Bellevue Police later that night. After a few days, Rice revised his version of what happened and admitted it happened.  He has been charged with indecent liberties, a felony sex offense.

One can’t help but wonder what has been going on at Rice’s home when witnesses aren’t around. The story did not report the current or anticipated status of Rice’s license to care for developmentally disabled adults.


Woman Allegedly Stole $1 Million from Elderly

Earlier this week, the Seattle Times reported another story about elder financial abuse. Brenda Nichols was charged in King County for allegedly stealing more than $1 million from an elderly Seattle woman. Nichols was charged along with two co-defendants.

She was under community supervision by the state Department of Corrections for a grand-theft conviction in California. She is also wanted in New York for an outstanding warrant for 2nd degree burglary.

Unfortunately, this is just another story of many more to come. Abuse against the elderly, by duping seniors out of their money is an ever increasing problem that we need to tackle.


Seattle Police Say Elder Abuse a Serious Issue in Washington

In a news story broken by King5 earlier this week, another story of elder abuse reminds us that this problem is not going away anytime soon.

Cotie Pifher, 25 years old, and Melissa Flores, 26 years old, lived together and treated Flores’ 63 year old aunt with cruelty and callousness befitting a war criminal. The story includes an account of Pifher beating Flores’ aunt with a wooden spoon, throwing her in a scalding shower, and pushing her outdoors with no clothes. Apparently, they had left her at a hospital with bruises and broken bones. Hospital staff and a relative requested a welfare check.

Seattle police say they have seen numerous cases of elder abuse in Western Washington. Adult Protective Services‘s most recent statistics indicate that there were at least 14,577 reported cases of abuse. These cases include physical, emotional, and financial abuse in Washington State (based on info compiled in 2009). Sadly, the perpetrators are most tpyically family members.

Presently, King and Pierce Counties have a billboard campaign to raise awareness about elder abuse. If you suspect elder abuse, please call 1 (800) 222-TIPS. Also, check out the below websites that offer information:

Settlement Finally Reached for Estate of Prominent Elder, Brooke Astor

The story of Brooke Astor is perhaps one of the more amazing stories of financial elder abuse. Brooke Astor.jpgMs. Astor, a prominent figures in the New York social scene, was known for her wealth, style and philanthropy. Initially revealed in 2006, Brooke Astor’s only child, Anthony (“Tony”) Marshall was indicted on criminal charges that included grand larceny, possession of stolen property, forgery and conspiracy.

Convicted in 2009 on charges such as grand larceny and falsifying business reports, Marshall had abused his power of attorney to his mother’s estate by selling it and forging her signature in the third codicil of his will with Astor’s former lawyer, Francis X. Morrissey. Their amendment would have left the entire estate to Marshall. This directly contradicted Ms. Astor’s previously articulated intent and desire to give a large portion of her estate to charity.

Last Wednesday, a settlement was finally reached that would cut Tony Marshall’s share to $14.5 million. $12.3 million will be paid out of the estate to the Manhattan D.A.’s office for the prosecution of Mr. Marshall.

Of the proceeds, some $20 million will go to the Metropoliation Museum of Art. $15 million will go to the New York Public Library. A $30 million fund will also be established to improve education in New York.

World Famous Billionaire Victim of Identity Theft

Paul Allen.jpgIf even a key figure in the development of electronic security can fall prey to identity theft, you know that virtually no one is immune to this type of fraud. Paul Allen, 59 year old co-founder of Microsoft and billionaire was an identity theft victim to an AWOL soldier who stole his debit card.

Indeed, Mr. Allen is not quite a senior citizen in Washington State (to qualify as a senior citizen in WA, one must be either 65 or older or 60-64 years old and work less than 20 hours/wk). However, one could easily imagine that he has an entire team of staff who manage and guard his finances. Regardless, a 28 year old AWOL soldier, Brandon Lee Price, gained access to Mr. Allen’s debit card, asking the bank to send it to his address in Pittsburgh.

Allen’s spokesman pointed out, “Clearly, it’s a reminder that anyone can be a victim of [id theft]… It certainly is a surprise and a reason for everyone to make sure that all that stuff is properly cared for and monitored.”

Over 50% of Elder Financial Abuse Cases Involve Own Family Member

In today’s MarketWatch Reality Q&A, the sad but true fact is underscored: Over half of thisElder Financial Abuse.jpg country’s elder abuse cases involve a family member, not shady “mortgage professionals.” The column indicates that sons are most likely to scam their parents or grandparents, more so than a fraudulent contractor/handyman or paramour.

This doesn’t mean that senior citizens should trust all lenders suddenly. Make sure that the senior that you’re concerned about understands the terms of the loan and the pros/cons of going through with the loan before s/he signs on the dotted line. Reverse mortgages rank as the 8th most prevalent scam targeting the elderly.

Fresno Woman Investigated for Ripping Off Senior Citizens

A woman in Fresno, CA, Sharon Harrelson, 55, is being investigated by local police for elder financial abuse. Elderly people, such as Michael Wyrick, trusted Ms. Harrelson and thought she was a friend, when depositing money directly into her account. She convinced these senrios that she could help them with their long term care by hiding their assets.

To qualify for Medi-Cal, these vulnerable adults entrusted her with tens of thousands of dollars. Police began investigating her in 2009, and alerted her employer about her possible criminal activities.

An investigator reported that Harrelson actually admitted to her employer that she had embezzled some money when they did an audit. She was fired soon thereafter.

Sadly, this type of situation is multiplying across the country, including in the Pacific Northwest.

Oregon Senate Approves Bill To Curb Elder Abuse

Yesterday, the Oregon Senate approved House Bill 4084, which supporters sayOR Detective.jpg will beef up the ability of law enforcement to protect vulnerable seniors from financial and physical abuse.  

The bill is modeled on legislation protecting children from abuse. It’s much harder under current law to step in with seniors and seek their financial and medical records that could provide evidence of potential abuse.  

As The Oregonian’s Rebecca Woolington wrote last month, the proposal allows law enforcement to gain access “to records that belong to elderly victims without them — or a caregiver  — signing a waiver, if investigators believe abuse is occurring.” That way, authorities can access records in a much speedier 

Bring the "Silent Epidemic" to an End

Earlier this month, a group of Senators renewed their efforts to protect seniors from elder abuse with the Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act. Democratic Senators, Richard Blumenthal, Al Franken, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Robert Casey introduced this bill, to craft a range of comprehensive elder abuse prevention

The bill prods more third parties to stop elder abuse when they can do so. Federal definitions of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation would be toughened. The definitions would be better aligned with the two prior bills that adressed this issue: the Elder Justice Act and the Older American Act. Those bills never defined elder financial abuse, which is a problem of epidemic proportions among seniors in our country,

Additionally, the bill requires better coordination of elder abuse justice programs nationwide and expands the National Adult Protective Services Resource Center to provide additional services and guidance to states. The measure would also require the development of best practices for elder abuse screening and increase support for state prevention, assessment, and response services.

Each of the senators who introduced the bill touched on the fact that the exploitation has gone on for decades will little notice from those in a position to stop it. Senator Casey noted that, “we must bring this largely silent epidemic of elder abuse to an end.

About Kevin

Kevin Coluccio was recently named one of the Top 10 Super Lawyers in Washington State. He has long history of successful elder abuse/neglect cases and has a stellar reputation for getting results for his injury clients in serious car crashes, pedestrian accidents, trucking accidents, maritime claims, and asbestos injury cases.