Former California Judge Pleads No Contest As Elder Financial Abuse Laws Clamp Down Further

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By Attorney Michael Ehline, of Ehline Law Firm PC, elder abuse attorneys. Two separate cases that show how elderly citizens become pawns in schemes to relieve of their finances.  One case occurring in Fort Myers, Florida and the other happening on the West Coast in California, with both having the same effect on the elderly citizens.

East Coast

In a financial elder abuse lawsuit that is being pursued by Fort Myers resident Gloria J. Emmert’s son Michael Sterling, he said in an interview with The News-Press of Fort Myers on September 8th, his mother was persuaded to take out a life insurance policy for $7.5 million dollars.

The 55 year old Sterling said that his deceased mother was 79 years old, living in North Fort Myers in a manufactured home on about $1800 a month between her Social Security and her pension.

According to his elder abuse attorney, Gloria Emmert was persuaded to take a life insurance policy for $7.5 million dollars and then encumbered with a trust and it is alleged she was talked into taking out a loan for $1.1 million in order to satisfy premiums of $742,000.

Sterling said that this type of financial deception of elderly citizens should have advocates concerned. He said his mother was financially exploited in 2006. Her son said he read through the policy and that his mother and her late husband had entrusted her then financial adviser. Sterling does not understand how his mother’s financial adviser could do this to her and her husband.

Emmert’s son is carrying on with the lawsuit on behalf of his deceased mother, with the lawsuit claiming that the $7.5 million life insurance policy application contained fraudulent information that involved his mother’s finances. He said the policy premiums were $742,000 and in order to pay the premiums a loan was arranged amortized over 30 months with an interest rate of 17.95 percent. Sterling said with the total cost of the loan and interest it totaled over $1.1 million.

After Emmert passed away the financial exploitation of the elderly Fort Myers resident continued, with an Estate Reduction Trust, with the sole beneficiary named as the insurance policy, a secondary trust or sub trust that was created for the responsibility for the loan. After the cost of the $1.1 million dollar loan there still should have been a $6.4 million dollar payout on the life insurance policy. There was never beneficiary named for this primary trust.

It is believed that the defendants in the lawsuit have profited in earnings of commissions and other compensation from the issuance of the life insurance policy Emmert was talked into, according to the lawsuit.

Sterling’s financial elder abuse attorney stated that at the time the $1.1 million dollar loan was taken to pay the premiums for the $7.5 million dollar life insurance policy there were no scheduled repayments for the loan, but there were penalties for payments made prior to the loan maturing.

According to Sterling’s attorney his mother suffered from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and was a widow. The lawsuit states that the cost of the 30 month loan was much higher than Emmert’s total assets. Emmert passed away in 2012 at the age of 86 and her son updated the lawsuit filed in Lee County Circuit Court in July.
Named in the lawsuit filed by Sterling are defendants David M. Jones, Erica Basler, Bill Basler, and Wells Fargo Advisors LLC.

Jones attorney said that the allegations in the lawsuit are without merit and Wells Fargo Advisors LLC refused to comment on the lawsuit. They did state that the firm got recognition in May for its efforts to stop elder abuse. Executive director of the National Adult Protective Services, Kathleen Quinn, who is based in Illinois said that Sterling, Emmert’s son has a difficult time understanding why anyone would give an these types of ideas to senior citizens that are vulnerable. The son that is continuing a lawsuit on behalf of his mother said that she made $1800 income monthly, with her Social Security and pension.

Florida is not the only place that financial elder abuse takes place, though it is prevalent with the number of senior citizens residing in the state and snowbirds. In order to help combat this type of abuse of senior citizens financial abuse was added to the Elder Care Justice Act in 2010, as a part of the Patient Protection and

Affordable Care Act.

According to complied information there were approximately 25 arrests made in Southwest Florida counties of Lee and Collier counties, since 2008.

West Coast

In California a former Alameda County Superior Court Judge pleaded no contest in a financial elder abuse case. The case involved former judge Paul Seeman, who became friends with Anna Nutting and her husband prior to his death in 1999.
Seeman obtained power of attorney for the couple who were his neighbors and gained control of their finances. In 1999 the year Nutting’s husband died, the former judge then barred her from her home, according to charges that were filed last year.
Nutting age 97 was relieved of her home, finances and it is alleged Seeman sold off her art collection, while she was forced to live in a hotel room until 2007 and later passed away in 2010.

Seeman stepped down from the bench in March, plead no contest to the charges. He has been barred from judicial office and has been disbarred from practicing law in the state of California. In a sentencing hearing October 22, Seeman is expected to face five years of probation, rather than jail time. Lee Elder Abuse Prevention Partnership, co-chair Dotty St. Amand said that seems like a extremely low settlement. She said that often elder abuse financial cases go underreported or unreported claims due to embarrassment. St. Amand said that cases that also go unreported are if the financial advisor is someone the victim knows.

Emmert’s financial elder abuse case this proved to be true, since the individual who had been advising her and her husband had been advising them for about 20 years, prior to the multimillion dollar life insurance policy. St. Amand said that the favorite targets of these schemes are elderly adults who live alone or suffer from dementia.
Quinn stated that the data for elder abuse is very limited.

The data suggests that approximately 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 daily in the United States and this has resulted in an increase in elder abuse cases and the need for financial elder abuse attorneys to deal with these cases. Though, still the majority of financial elder abuse case go unreported.

Governor Jerry Brown of California signed state Assembly Bill AB-381 into law, which is legislation permitting courts of law to award attorneys costs and fees to senior citizens that have been victims of powers of attorney when it is acting in bad faith or not in the best interest of the elderly resident entrusted to the attorney.



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