How did a Seattle cabbie steal a $164,000 from an elderly woman – with state investigators watching?

This post originally appeared at Coluccio-Law.com.

Last week, King County prosecutors filed charges against 56-year-old David G. Money for stealing from an elderly nursing home patient.

The two met when Mr. Money picked her up as a fare a few years ago. Since then, the woman has written $164,000 in checks to Mr. Money, and another $90,000 in suspicious checks to herself.

Anyone can report financial elder abuse to Washington DSHS

Anyone can report financial elder abuse to Washington DSHS

The Seattle PI story has more details, but the timeline raises a lot of questions.

1. Nearly 2 years ago, a Chase bank employee flagged the elderly woman’s account when Money brought her in and tried to cash out $98,000.

2. The employee held up the transaction, and reported it to Washington elder abuse investigators. They started looking into the matter in November 2012.

3. Shortly after that, a state social worker met with Mr. Money. A cursory investigation into Mr. Money would have shown a bankruptcy claim in 2009, in which he claimed to have a serious gambling problem.

4. Presumably, DSHS would have met with the victim as well: she is a childless widow reportedly suffering from dementia.

5. Mr. Money had been made the sole beneficiary of the woman’s will, and had been given power of attorney over her estate.

6. Yet, Mr. Money was just arrested.

By the time police were involved, the woman had $100 in her primary bank account.

Did elder abuse investigators let this go on for two years?

Red flags were raised. The bank employee (rightfully) flagged the victim’s account, but apparently Mr. Money continued pilfering money from her for two more years.

The right people – including elder abuse investigators and the police – were alerted.

Yet, by the time Mr. Money was stopped, he was the beneficiary of at least $164,000, and possibly another $90,000 from suspicious checks the victim wrote to herself.

What happened between November 2012 when investigators were alerted, and police stopped him?

Money is charged with first-degree theft, and is currently free on bond.

There are a lot of unanswered questions in this case that may help explain what happened, or may point out some serious gaps in Washington state’s handling of financial elder abuse.


This post originally appeared on the author’s law practice website, Coluccio-Law.com.  

State Run Group Homes Skate On Thin Ice

Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has given notice to King County SOLA (State Operated Living Alternatives). At present, the SOLA homes are now operating under what is called a “provisional certification.” In other words, administrators must prove that they are able to keep 50 vulnerable adults in these SOLAs healthy and safe. Otherwise, the program may shutdown.

An investigation that Susannah Frame of KING5 conducted (see below clip. “Repeat violations threaten shutdown of 13 state-run group homes”) reveal some cringe worthy details about a number of state run group homes in the Puget Sound and beyond.
According to KING5, 38 SOLA homes in Washington care for about 130 clients. These homes are in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Yakima, and Bremerton. The provisional certification was imposed in late July 2012, as the result of homes repeated violations and for citations of “serious deficiencies determined to jeopardize client’s health, safety and/or welfare.”  These serious deficiencies included instances of assault, neglect, and sexual assault.

There are 38 SOLA homes in the state which care for 130 clients. The homes are located in Tacoma, Bremerton, Yakima, Spokane and Seattle. They are unique in that they aren’t simply licensed by the state to operate as a group home; they are managed and run by state employees. The provisional certification only applies to the King County program.

County’s Worst Case of Theft: Caregiver Steals $1 Million

John Friedlund was a Washington State caregiver, who received a 10-year prison sentence earlier this month for stealing $1 million from a 107 year old woman, Frances Swan, 107. She was found living in feces and utter squalor, as her supposed caregiver had spent her funds to purchase tractors, horse trailers and over 300 guns.

John Herbert Friedlund gets 10 yr prison sentence for elder abuse/theft.

Stevens County Deputy Prosecutor Leah Radzimski described John Herbert Friedlund’s acts as “…the worst instance of theft and abuse we’ve had in the county. Six officers said the home was the worst they’d ever seen.”

Friedlund, 79, was sentenced by Stevens County Superior Court Judge Al Nielson, a day after jurors convicted him of first-degree theft.

He had resided at a ranch near Kettle Falls, roughly 210 miles northeast of Seattle. For four years, he was given the responsibility as caregiver to Ms. Swan. During those four years, he stole money from her retirement account, according to Radzimski.He spent the $1 million on 300 to 400 guns and other items such as tractors and horse trailers, Radzimski said.

Ms. Swan was bedridden in a back room of her feces strewn Kettle Falls home. Deputies discovered her in May 2011. She begged them for food.  The only food found at her place was rotten, and the garbage had stacked so high with filth that it reached the ceiling.

She now lives in a nursing home.

In early October 2012, a jury convicted Friedlund of theft with two aggravating circumstances – violation of the victim because of her vulnerability and his position of fiduciary responsibility over her.

As unbelievable as stories like these are, we are finding them more common. If you believe that someone you love is the victim of elder abuse, contact an attorney. Kevin Coluccio has represented numerous elder abuse victims and their family members, finding justice against those negligent in their care of some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Killed Over a Coin Collection: Another Tragedy Pointing to the Rise of Elder Abuse

Recently, the Seattle Times reported about a loosely organized crime ring that has been targeting senior citizens.

The latest reported casualty is Navy veteran Frances “Patrick” Fleming. He had spoken openly about his coin collection, which unfortunately caught the attention of Charles Jungbluth and Gilda Ramirez. Jungbluth and Ramirez allegedly stabbed Mr. Fleming to death in early December 2011.

According to the Times’ article, in late August of this year, Jungbluth, 51, of Lake Stevens, and Ramirez, 49, of Seattle, were charged with first-degree murder and each ordered held at the King County Jail in lieu of $2 million bail.

70 year old slayed over coin collection

Apparently, those charged for the death and theft of Mr. Fleming and their associates target vulnerable adults to commit financial crimes.

An important takeaway from this article is that there is a rise in this type of crime, where elder financial abuse is at the crux. Please remember to urge your elderly relatives to be more cautious around those they do not know.

If someone you care about may have been the victim of elder abuse or neglect, Kevin Coluccio is available for a free consultation. Kevin is a Top 10 Washington Super Lawyers, and has helped find justice for many families who have fallen prey to elder abuse.



New Elder Abuse Justice Center in Vancouver, WA

A new elder abuse justice center was unveiled in Vancouver, WA earlier this week. Its set-up is moodeled after existing specialty centers, such as the Children’s Justice Center and the Domestic Violence Prosecution Center.Clark Co Elder Abuse Justice Center.jpg

Typically, Clark County, Washington has dealt with case of financial exploitation of elders as general felonies or like other theft or abuse cases. With a specialty center for elder abuse crimes now in place, the hope is to streamline the process in prosecuting them by having all the players under one roof, Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik explained.

Three DSHS adult protection services workers along with detectives and a prosecutor will work out of the new justice center.

According to the adult protection services, there were 880 cases of elder abuse in 2009 (the most recent statistics), a large majority of those were unreported.

There are currently 113 pending elder abuse cases at the prosecutor’s office, according to Dianna Kretzschmar, the program coordinator.

I-1163 Claims to Protect Vulnerable Citizens

Pierce County Prosecutor, Mark Lindquist, writes in today’s News Tribune in favor of I-1163. Lindquist explains that this initiative will require home care workers to pass a federal background check. These are the home care workers who provide identical care in nursing home facilities, but in a setting where they are not supervised closelyI-1163.jpg.

At present, the background checks are at the state level. But this means that such checks will not catch crimes committed outside the borders of Washington State. However, Lindquist does not mention that workers who have lived in the state less than three years are required to undergo an FBI fingerprint check by state law.

The measure also would require more than double the current number of hours of basic training — 75 hours instead of the current requirement of 35 hours. Workers would be paid wages for attending the training classes.

Opponents to the initiative, which had passed three years ago as I-1029, focus on the state’s budget shortfall. Gregoire, who opposes I-1163, explains that cuts will have to be made elsewhere if this measure passes. State analysts estimate that this measure would cost about $18 million over the next two years. Opponents most damning criticism of I-1163 is the fact that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a large proponent of I-1163, stands to benefit financially, as it would likely provide much of the instruction. The proposed new 75 hour training mandate would indeed provide a generous income source to SEIU.

Nonetheless, Cindi Laws, executive director of the Washington State Residential Care Council, explains that more training will not effectively prevent caregivers with nefarious intentions from taking advantage of seniors. She says that the state needs to do a better job of investigating places that have repeated and serious violations, and she wants regulators to take swifter action when there is a major problem.

Read more: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2011/10/18/1869787/wa-voters-asked-again-to-boost.html#ixzz1bH2C0mFl

Washington State Watchdog Program Gets Huge Budget Cut

According to a recent article in The Columbian, a Washington State watchdog program that addresses complaints regarding elder abuse neglect and abuse will soon lose about a third of its funding. This is because of a decision by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to stop reimbursing the state Long Term Care Ombudsman ProgramWA LongTerm Care Ombudsman Program.jpg.

The state long-term care ombudsman explained that this large budget cut will result in a loss of staff, which will translate to slower response times to complaints about nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect.

At present, there are about 2,700 long term care facilities around the state with about 400 volunteers who advocate for the residents. These volunteers also communicate about issues raised by residents regarding resident rights. Complaints about about abuse or neglect at a long-term facilities are ofte4n reported by the volunteers.

However, due to budget cuts, training program required for volunteers will be accessible with fewer locations and staff.

According to Terry Cumpton, special assistant in the agency’s Seattle office, Washington is the third state in the country that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has pulled Medicaid expenses for ombudsman programs.


Researching Nursing Homes May Give You Greater Peace of Mind

Recently, a family who had filed a wrongful death claim involving a 97 year old nursing home resident, settled with Everett Rehabilitation and Care Center for $3.5 million.

In 2009, their lawsuit was filed, alleging that Everett Rehab staff failed to care adequately for the 97 year old patient, who had developed penile cancer.  Staff neglected to inform the nursing home patient’s family or primary care physician that his genitalia was literally disintegrating. In 2008, a couple weeks after he was rushed to the emergency room, where the doctors had discovered the dramatic deterioration, the patient died.

I was curious to see what type of ratings and reviews that this defendant nursing home received, and went to various sites that review and rank nursing homes.  One such site is the US News Health Nursing Homes site. When searching Everett Rehabilitation and Care Center, sadly, I was not surprised to see that it had abysmal rankings. For almost all of the metrics, the home received only one or two stars.

Ratings of Everett Home.jpg

We can learn a lot from this horrific tragedy. For one, when you are trying to decide on a nursing home for your loved one, be sure to do your homework.

Search the internet for the many sites that provide reviews and ratings on the health and standard of care that the facility provides. This homework will pay off in the long run, giving you greater peace of mind that your elderly loved one is in the best hands.

Certificates of Merit Unconstitutional in Washington

Often times, a legal claim for elder abuse or neglect also involves a claim for violating the standards of medical care.

For instance, failure to properly treat a pressure sore usually involves the elder neglect of simply not treating it, but also the failure to adhere to standards of pressure sore treatment and prevention in the medical community. For the medical side of the claim, a claimant had to jump through hoops in order to sue the wrongful party. This meant that, without the benefit of any discovery, a claimant still had to get a doctor to agree that someone else acted below the standard of care.

The Washington Supreme Court today invalidated the requirement of a certificate of merit. Because the opinion says so much about what justice is, what justice requires, and how we should treat impediments to justice, I have included it after the jump.

I cannot stress how much of a win this is for patients rights.

Medical negligence claims are one of the hardest to prove because it involves judgement of a doctor, often in complex situations.

Many times, if a hospital or doctor knows they screwed up, they will impede your pre-trial discovery, hindering your ability to obtain a certificate of merit. The striking down of the certificate of merit requirement removes this procedural roadblock and allows the case to move forward on an even keel with all other negligence claims. It removes a procedural hurdle that was a bar to so many negligence claims, regardless of whether the provider violated the standard of care. This will allow people to have their day in court — to be heard.

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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.