Thursday, September 20, 2012

Be Careful What You Sign

Many people do not read what they sign when they are admitting their loved ones into nursing homes. It is very important to read what you're signing so that you do not sign away important rights, such as the right to sue a negligent nursing home.  NBC News covered this phenomenon in a recent article written by Michelle Andrews on 9/18/2012.  The article may be viewed by reading below or clicking this link.
When Paul Ormond signed John Mitchell into a nursing home in Dennis, Mass., in June, he was handed a few dozen pages of admission papers. Ormond, Mitchell's legal guardian and an old friend, signed wherever the director of admissions told him to.
He didn't realize that one of those documents was an agreement that required Mitchell and his family to take disputes to a professional arbitrator rather than to court.
Mitchell had been institutionalized since suffering a stroke in 1999. During a hospital stay early this summer, Mitchell, then 69, had received a tracheotomy and needed to switch to a nursing home that could accommodate him.
A few weeks after Mitchell arrived at the new nursing home, staff members dropped him while using a lift device to move him from his bed to his chair. Later that night Ormond, 63, got a call from the nursing home that Mitchell was unresponsive. Mitchell was rushed to the hospital, and doctors found that the fall had caused extensive bleeding on his brain. He died a few days later.
Mitchell's sons hired a lawyer to look into the circumstances surrounding their father's death. That was when Ormond learned that amid all the admissions papers he had signed was an arbitration agreement.
"I thought it was deceptive, and I was pretty angry that I'd been tricked into signing something that I didn't know what it was," says Ormond.
A mandatory arbitration agreement is an often overlooked document in the package of admissions papers at many nursing homes these days. It can have an outsize impact if something goes wrong. But anxious seniors or their caregivers often sign every document that's put in front of them, perhaps only glancing at the content.
Signing an arbitration agreement means that in the event of a problem that is not amicably resolved -- Mom slips on a wet floor and breaks her hip, say, or Dad wanders off the premises and gets hit by a car -- you agree to bring the dispute before a professional arbitrator rather than file a lawsuit for negligence or wrongful death, for example.
Agreeing to arbitrate is generally not in families' best interests, say consumer advocates. For one thing, it can be pricey. In addition to hiring a lawyer, the patient or family generally has to pay its share of the arbitrator's fee, which may come to hundreds of dollars an hour, says Paul Bland, a senior attorney at Public Justice, a public interest law firm based in Washington.
"In court, you don't have to pay the judge," he says. "Our taxes pay for that."
Court proceedings are also conducted in a public courtroom and leave a detailed public record that can inform industry practice and help develop case law, say experts. Not so with arbitration hearings, which are conducted in private and whose proceedings and materials are often protected by confidentiality rules.
The amount awarded -- if any -- may also be less if an arbitrator hears the case than it would be if a case went to trial, say experts.
Aon Global Risk Consulting analyzed 1,449 closed claims involving long-term-care providers between 2003 and 2011 and found that there was no money awarded in 30 percent of claims where a valid arbitration agreement was in place, compared with 19 percent of claims in which there was no arbitration agreement or the agreement was determined to be unenforceable.
Likewise, nearly 12 percent of claims without arbitration agreements resulted in awards of $250,000 or more, compared with 8.5 percent of claims with arbitration agreements.
The study was conducted with the American Health Care Association, which represents 11,000 long-term-care facilities. According to the report, "loss rates" -- reflecting the dollar value of liability claims paid -- are increasing 4 percent annually.
"Liability costs for providing care have grown and escalated" in recent years, says Greg Crist, a spokesman for the association. Arbitration agreements help keep a lid on those costs, he says.
That may explain why arbitration agreements have become much more common in nursing homes, experts say. The agreements are increasingly used in assisted living facilities as well.
Arbitration can also benefit patients and their families, Crist says. Claims are typically resolved more quickly than court cases, he says, so attorney costs are lower and patients can retain a larger portion of any financial settlement.
The Federal Arbitration Act, enacted in 1925, allows for two sides in a dispute to agree to binding arbitration to resolve their differences. If a dispute arises and an arbitration agreement is in place, the arbitrators are jointly selected by the patient and the nursing home.
Although consumers usually don't realize it, there's a simple way to avoid being forced into arbitration, say experts: Don't sign the arbitration agreement.
What happens if you don't sign? Nothing, Crist says. "It's not a condition of admission to the facility," he says. The American Health Care Association doesn't support requiring people to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of admission, he says, although practices may vary at individual nursing homes.
If you do sign and then wish you hadn't, arbitration agreements typically have a 30-day "opt-out" provision that allows you to change your mind and retain your rights to sue.
The judge in John Mitchell's wrongful death case threw out the agreement on the grounds that it was "unconscionable",  a legal term used to describe contracts that are unfair or unjust.
"The judge agreed it was too much to expect me to digest all of this information at once, and that the arbitration clause hadn't been explained thoroughly," says Ormond. A trial date hasn't yet been set.
Arguing that an agreement is unconscionable is one of the few ways people can extricate themselves from arbitration agreements once a dispute arises, says David Hoey, a North Reading, Mass., lawyer representing the Mitchell family. Another possibility is to prove that the person wasn't competent to sign an agreement or that the family member who signed wasn't legally qualified to do so.
Better yet, experts agree, is not to sign in the first place.

Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury lawyer in Altoona, PA who specializes in nursing home abuse and neglect, as well as car accident claims.  For more information on his central Pennsylvania practice, please visit his website or call his law firm at 814-946-4100.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reimbursement For Transition Of Services

An article by McKnight's Long-Term Care News and Assisted Living recently ran an article talking about Pennsylvania's reimbursement policies for caregivers providing transition of care services.  The article, originally written on 9/19/2012, may be viewed by either reading below or byclicking this link
A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation that would reimburse providers for coordination of care services.The legislation, called the Medicare Transitional Care Act of 2012, seeks to improve transitions of care for Medicare beneficiaries transferring out of the hospital and into a skilled nursing facility or back into their own homes.
The bill would have Medicare give a specific payment — based on performance metrics and improved outcomes — to providers performing coordination activities. The legislation was sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Thomas Petri (R-WI), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

This legislation comes as hospitals prepare to face penalties for failing to prevent readmissions for conditions such as pneumonia and heart failure. The penalties, which will go into effect Oct. 1, will make strong relationships between hospitals and post-acute providers more important than ever, health experts say.

Attorney Doug Stoehr has worked on several claims involving elder abuse at the hands of caregivers.  If you or a loved one has been a suspected victim of elder abuse, it might be time to consult an attorney.  Attorney Stoehr serves the western and central Pennsylvania area and is located in Altoona, PA. For more information on his law practice, please call at814-946-4100 or visit his website here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Social Media Insurance Policies?

Great Britain is now offering insurance exclusively for social media-related activities.  We can only assume that the United States will also such a service in the coming years. Social media can be very important in helping or hurting a personal injury claim. It is important to monitor what you post on websites such as Twitter or Facebook in order to avoid compromising the validity of your claim. Attorney Doug Stoehr recommends the following thought process when posting online: if you don't want the entire world to see what you're posting, don't post it. Your social media updates are not as private as you might think and may be brought up as evidence in a courtroom. For more information on his law practice, please click here.
More information about Great Britain insurance companies' new social media coverage may be found by reading below. 
The following article was originally run by the Insurance Business Review's online website, IRB.comon 9/17/2012.  The original article may be read below or can be accessed by clicking this link.
ALLOW, the information privacy company, has implemented the UK’s first social media insurance for consumers, with a strategy to deal with the impact of reputational damage, account jacking and all other forms of ID theft.
Under the insurance cover, all the subscribers of ALLOW will get payment for legal advice and expert support in the event of a claim.
According to the service provider, the support includes legal assistance to help from online search experts to locate and remove, or bury, offending material.
This process of burying content, or 'reverse SEO', would normally cost thousands of pounds and is not generally available to the average consumer, ALLOW said.
ALLOW CEO Justin Basini said there were cases of hacking, account hijacking and reputational damage emerging all the time.
"Anyone that has suffered as a result of having their identity stolen or a third party taking over their accounts will know that this can be a distressing and arduous process to put right. We've got the solution," Basini added.
The company said the insured amount is £10,000 in professional fees and supplementary costs for any one incident in respect of identity theft or account jacking, or £3,500 in respect of any reputational damage sustained.
ALLOW's insurance supported protection for its members forms an integral part of the ALLOW Protect service, which costs £3.99 per month.
ALLOW Protect assists people with Facebook privacy, data protection, cutting down spam/ junk mail, blocking online tracking, and guarding against ID fraud by monitoring their personal data.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Signs of Elder Abuse

An article by Wicked Local-Easton, located in Massachusetts, recently ran an article about the red flags of elder abuse.  The article was originally written by Diane DiGorgi on 8/12/2012 and may be found in its original form here.

In Massachusetts, there are 54 new reports of elder abuse filed every day. Yet for every report made, another 25 incidents of abuse go unreported.
The tell-tale signs of elder abuse often go unnoticed by friends or neighbors. Elder abuse refers to intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or trusted individual, like a family member, that lead to harm of an elder.
Abuse takes many forms – physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, financial abuse and exploitation, emotional or psychological abuse and abandonment. Self-neglect is also a form of abuse in our state.
If you suspect elder abuse, report it! Don’t assume that someone has already reported a suspicious situation.
To report elder abuse, contact a Protective Services agency by calling 1-800-922-2275. You will be asked what you observed and who was involved, so it’s important that you write down details of what you saw and when you saw it. You do not need to prove that abuse is occurring; the professionals will conduct an investigation. Here are some of the red flags or signs of elder abuse:
Lack of basic hygiene, adequate food or clean and appropriate clothing, Lack of medical aids - glasses, walker, teeth, hearing aid, medications, Person with dementia left unsupervised, Person confined to bed is left without care, Home cluttered, filthy, in disrepair, or having fire and safety hazards, Home without adequate facilities - stove, refrigerator, heat, cooling, working plumbing and electricity, Untreated pressure/bed sores (pressure ulcers)
Financial abuse/exploitation
Lack of amenities victim could afford, Vulnerable elder/adult voluntarily giving excessive financial reimbursement/gifts for care and companionship, Caregiver controls elder’s money but fails to provide for elder’s needs, Elder has signed property transfers, power of attorney, new will, or similar documents but is unable to comprehend the transaction or what it means
Psychological/emotional abuse
Unexplained or uncharacteristic changes in behavior, such as withdrawal from normal activities, unexplained changes in alertness, Caregiver isolates elder, does not allow others into the home or to speak to the elder, Caregiver is verbally aggressive or demeaning, controlling, or uncaring
Physical/sexual abuse
Inadequately explained fractures, bruises, welts, cuts, sores or burns, Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases
Under state law, any doctor, nurse, social worker, policeman, fireman, therapist, home health worker or other professional who has reasonable cause to believe that an elder is suffering from abuse, must file a report. Reports can be taken 24/7. Anyone who sees a red flag of abuse should report concerns to a Protective Services agency or, in a life-threatening situation, to the police.
Diana DiGiorgi is executive director of Old Colony Elder Services which serves 20 towns in Plymouth County as well as Avon, Easton and Stoughton. The organization’s mission is to provide services that will support the dignity and independence of elders by helping them maximize their quality of life; live safely and in good health and prevent unnecessary or premature institutionalization. For more information call (508) 584-1561 or visit the website at

Pennsylvania also has its share of elder abuse problems.  Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury lawyer serving western and central Pennsylvania who pursues many elder abuse cases.  For more information on his firm, please go to or call his firm at 814-946-4100.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Protecting Loved Ones from Financial Abuse

A recent article by the Public News Serviceon 9/12/2012 commented on the rise of elder financial abuse and the warning signs for family members.  The original article may be found by reading below or by clicking this link. 

PHOENIX - The son of a woman bilked out of $90,000 has advice for other grown children concerned about their aging parents: Get involved sooner rather than later.

At his mother's house in Oregon, John Fread noticed a credit card statement with a balance of $20,000. Scammers had charged almost five times that much on several accounts. They started as phone solicitors and eventually sent people to her home to lift financial information.

Fread says the ordeal took a terrible toll - not only on his mother's finances, but on her health.

"We are having to really offer emotional support that we never expected. My mom - you know, tough old girl - is now very vulnerable, and her confidence is gone. These people really robbed what should have been the last great part of her life; they took that away from her."

Fread advises grown children to get to know their parents' neighbors, and check out any new people or caregivers in their lives. Glance at their incoming mail and caller ID for hints of scams and solicitations. Don't worry about seeming 'nosy', he says - he wishes he had been.

The Arizona Attorney General's Office says reports of elder abuse in the state are up 150 percent in the past decade, with financial exploitation and fraud the most common forms of abuse. 

Fread says collection agencies still are hounding his family about the credit card debt, even though they've been informed of the scam. He hopes other families can avoid these problems by having conversations that may be uncomfortable - but necessary.

"Y'know, 'Mom, Dad, things are a little different in your generation than my generation. Here are some things that we need to talk about because I've seen it happening - it's in the news,' for example. It's so much easier to sit down and have the tough conversation proactively than try to scramble and reactively try to fix something."

The Area Agency on Aging in Phoenix estimates only about one case in 14 is ever reported.

A report from MetLife Insurance Co. estimates the loss by victims of elder financial abuse at $2.9 billion a year. Its research is online at

Attorney Doug Stoehr also represents elder abuse victims and their loved ones in the central and western Pennsylvania area.  For more information on his personal injury practice, please click here or call his office at814-946-4100.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Highway Safety Critical For Commercial Drivers

A recent press release by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance spoke about the importance highway safety and the national road checks on commercial drivers that recently occurred.  The link to the original release may be found here; the press release also appears below.
In June, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) member jurisdictions conducted a record 74,072 truck and bus inspections during the 25th Annual Roadcheck, a commercial vehicle safety enforcement and outreach event. Of those inspections, 48,815 were North American Standard Level 1 inspections — the most comprehensive roadside inspection, of which 22.4 percent of vehicles and 3.9 percent of drivers were placed out of service (OOS). These vehicle and driver OOS rates for Level 1 inspections represent the second lowest achieved in 25 years, continuing its successful historic trend downward. For comparison, in 1991 (the first year comprehensive data were available,) the Level 1 OOS rates were 34.8 percent for vehicles and 5.6 percent for drivers.The overall OOS rates for the entire event in 2012 (includes all inspection levels) were 20.9 percent for vehicles and 4.6 percent for drivers, both of which were higher than last year’s numbers. Despite the positive trend on the Level 1’s, this highlights that one in five vehicles selected for inspection was found with a violation serious enough to be considered an imminent safety hazard. These mixed results indicate that, while the attention paid by industry to maintenance and regulatory compliance generally is improving, more needs to be done by industry and enforcement alike.
Roadcheck 2012 emphasized a back-to-the-basics focus, with special attention paid toward braking systems and hours-of-service, the top ranking violation categories for vehicles and drivers, respectively. Even with these focus areas, the proportions of brake related and hours-of-service related violations relative to all out-of-service violations declined slightly (see fact sheet attached). In addition, seatbelt violations issued totaled 848, the fewest recorded since 2007. During the event, CVSA estimates that over 9,500 CVSA and FMCSA inspectors participated at approximately 2,500 locations across North America. Also during Roadcheck 2012, 10 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces engaged part of their enforcement activities to focus on vehicles serving oil field and natural gas production sites, where increases in commercial truck traffic have raised significant safety concerns.
“Roadcheck continues to shine a spotlight on the critical importance of the roadside inspection program across North America and how vital it is to commercial vehicle safety and our march toward zero deaths on our roadways. I appreciate the continued focus by both enforcement and industry towards ensuring that it remains a top priority,” said CVSA president David Palmer, an assistant chief with the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“This is a clear indication that enforcement and industry’s efforts during Roadcheck are having a positive impact,” said CVSA’s executive director Stephen A. Keppler. “This goes to show that even in these difficult budgetary times for states, provinces and local agencies that each and every roadside inspection is important and makes a difference.”
Roadcheck 2012 took place June 5th through 7th, with an average of more than 1,000 trucks or buses inspected every hour during the 72-hour campaign. The United States, Canada and Mexico participated with inspections occurring either at fixed or temporary inspection locations. Inspections included an examination of driver license and credentials, proper and complete records of duty status, safety belt use, driving behaviors and other driver safety conditions. Vehicles were examined for proper brake system maintenance, tire condition, function of lighting systems, properly secured loads, and other vehicle condition related violations. The annual three-day Roadcheck event has resulted in the inspection of over 1.2 million vehicles since it began in 1988 and gives enforcement, industry and academia an eye on inspection trends from year to year. Meanwhile, enforcement agencies across North America conduct commercial vehicle inspections every day, with approximately 4 million inspections completed in 2011.
CVSA sponsors Roadcheck each year with the support of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA), Transport Canada, and the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (Mexico).
“Once again Roadcheck effectively identifies and removes from the road truck and bus companies that cut corners at the expense of safety,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “FMCSA embraces Roadcheck 100 percent and for good reason – it enforces high safety standards and improves roadway safety for everyone.”
The 74,072 inspections conducted during Roadcheck 2012 included 652 inspections of passenger carrying vehicles and 4,826 inspections of vehicles carrying hazardous materials. Of passenger carrying vehicles inspected, 8.6 percent of vehicles and 2.5 percent of drivers were placed out of service. Of vehicles carrying hazardous materials, 15.6 percent of vehicles and 2.3 percent of drivers were placed out of service. Approximately 27,000 CVSA Decals were issued during Roadcheck 2012 to vehicles that were found to be without violations in the critical inspection items.
CVSA is an international not-for-profit organization comprised of local, state, provincial, territorial, and federal motor carrier safety officials and industry representatives from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Our mission is to promote commercial motor vehicle safety and security by providing leadership to enforcement, industry and policy makers. The Alliance actively monitors, evaluates, and identifies solutions to potentially unsafe transportation processes and procedures related to driver and vehicle safety requirements most often associated with commercial motor vehicle crashes. In addition, CVSA has several hundred associate members who are committed to helping the Alliance achieve its goals; uniformity, compatibility and reciprocity of commercial vehicle inspections, and enforcement activities throughout North America by individuals dedicated to highway safety and security. For more on CVSA,

Friday, September 7, 2012

USNews Covers Chronic Pain

A recent article by the USNews Health section of their website had some very useful information about the nature of chronic pain and the current medical knowledge about the disease.  The original article, written on 9/5/2012 by Michelle Andrews, may be found by clicking here.

About one third of Americans, an estimated 100 million people, suffer from chronic pain, making it one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor. Pain can be the side effect of serious medical problems like cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, but it also exists independently of any other medical condition. Despite decades of research and millions of dollars devoted to studying the problem, current therapies provide only marginal relief for many sufferers. But there are glimmers of hope. Among other developments, researchers today are working on novel approaches that focus on controlling activity in the brain's pain centers and on cells previously thought to play only a supporting role in the central nervous system.
Success can't come any too soon. Prescription drugs like Oxycontin, Percocet, and Vicodin, while effective weapons against chronic pain, are under increasing scrutiny because they can be addictive for patients and have also been abused by others who simply take them, without prescriptions, for their euphoria-producing effects. To relieve the widespread overdependence on painkillers, researchers are investigating new ways to attack this most primitive sensation and not merely mask it, as opioid drugs do. But researchers have to tread carefully, as pain can help keep "us out of trouble," as in a warning to draw back from a hot stove, says Sean Mackey, chief of the pain management division at Stanford University School of Medicine. The goal is to lessen or eliminate chronic pain that serves no useful purpose.
Often, pain starts with a physical injury such as a burn or scrape. When tissue is damaged, sensory receptors in the skin or elsewhere in the body send signals in the form of electrical impulses along nerves, or neurons, to the spinal cord. In the spinal cord, chemical neurotransmitters are released that activate other nerves, sending an electrical signal to the brain, where it is processed and interpreted as pain.
Until recently, researchers have focused on the nerves at the site where the pain occurs, like an aching knee joint, and on the spinal cord. But pain is dependent on perception, which occurs in the brain. The sensation is a complex bodily experience incorporating the physical feeling ("That hurts!"), the emotional reaction ("Why did I grab the hot pan?"), and the intellectual response ("I need to be more careful.") "Without perception there is no pain," notes Kenneth Follett, professor and chief of neurosurgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Some soldiers wounded in battle, for example, have said they didn't know they were hurt until after the danger had passed. The reasons for this are unclear, says Follett, but attention likely plays a role. When it is focused elsewhere, the brain may not perceive pain.
At the Stanford Systems Neuroscience & Pain Laboratory, Mackey is trying to better understand the mechanisms involved. In one study, he and colleagues performed brain scans on subjects' anterior cingulate cortices, one of the areas responsible for perceiving and controlling pain. The subjects, whose hands were intermittently heated by a probe, could watch on a screen as their brain activity increased or decreased, depending on the intensity of the pain they were feeling. Researchers suggested ways subjects could control the sensation, such as by focusing on something else or attempting to change their perception of the pain from something frightening and damaging to something neutral. After four 13-minute sessions, healthy subjects, who were included in the study, reduced their sensation of pain by 23 percent. Chronic pain patients, who learned to control their body's own pain sensations, reported an even more dramatic average reduction of 64 percent.
"We thought, maybe we can help people control their own brain activity," Mackey explains. He says researchers hope that, with increased training, patients can "reshape" the circuits responsible for pain. Mackey and his colleagues were recently awarded a $9 million grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, to study the effectiveness of this neurofeedback technique and other mind-body approaches to treating chronic low back pain.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Dog Attack in Everett, PA

Everett, PA recently made national news when the Seattle Times covered a story about a vicious dog attack in the small town.  The article was originally written by Jennifer Sullivan on 8/27/2012 and the link to the story may be found here.

Everett police say two dogs escaped from their yard and went on a “chomping spree” Saturday, attacking five people and killing a cat.
Police say the first person was attacked at 6:30 a.m. in the 1300 block of Lombard Avenue. Officers found a 44-year-old man with bites to his legs and back. The man told officers that the two dogs crossed the street and attacked him. The attack was interrupted by a passerby who scared the dogs away, police said.
The victim was hospitalized for non-life-threatening injuries.
Police tracked the dogs down and one officer was bitten on the leg. The dogs, one of which killed a cat in front of police, ran off when the officer used his Taser on them
Officers soon learned of other victims of dog bites: a 27-year-old woman, a 54-year-old woman and a 44-year-old man.
The 27-year-old woman was bitten while after she got out of her car at work while the 54-year-old woman was attacked by the dogs as she was outside in her driveway.  When the dogs bit her, the woman shouted and waved her arms and the dogs were scared away.  After the dogs left the woman noticed her pants had punctures in them, but she was not injured.
The man was bitten while he was sleeping in the 1800 block of Broadway. The man walked to Providence Regional Medical Center for injuries to his feet. The man reportedly scared the dogs away by yelling and swinging his backpack, police said.
While tracking the animals, officers used their PA systems to warn residents of the dangerous dogs.
Police caught up with the dogs, again, in the 1500 block of Grand Avenue. Officers used a Taser on one dog, a pitbull. The dog died during officers’ attempts to restrain it, according to police spokesman Officer Aaron Snell. The second dog, a boxer, was found after it returned to its home in the 1700 block of Lombard.
The dog was impounded by Everett Animal Services for quarantine. No decision has been made on whether it will be euthanized.
The dogs were deemed potentially dangerous dogs in August 2011 by Everett Animal Services.  No charges have been filed against the owners of the dogs.  An investigation is ongoing.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Elder Scam: Money Stolen by Family Members

Elder Scam: Money Stolen by Family Members

This is a great article by the Financial Times highlighting the finer points of elder financial abuse.  It also talks about financial abuse at the hands of family members, which is a lesser-known, but just as dangerous, form of elder financial fraud.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

PA Elder Abuse Scammer On Trial originally published an article on 8/24/2012.  The article, written by Margaret Gibbons, highlighted the trial of an accused senior scammer in the Philadelphia area.  The original article may be found by clicking on this link.

An Upper Southampton man will have to stand trial on charges that he and three others allegedly bilked $700,000-plus from more than 250 seniors in scams involving home care services, home security services and insurance counseling services. District Judge Paul N. Leo on Thursday ruled that state prosecutors had produced sufficient evidence during a three-day preliminary hearing to take Ross Rabelow, 53, of the 500 block of Jason Drive, Upper Southampton, to trial on the more than 1,000 charges stemming from the various scams. Rabelow, who is free on $1 million bail, is charged with multiple counts each of participating in a corrupt organization, theft, unfair business practices, insurance fraud, conspiracy and dealing in proceeds from unlawful activities.
The other three defendants — Bruce H. Cherry, 52, of Philadelphia; Thomas J. Muldoon, 58, of Delaware County; and Robert P. Lerner, 56, of Philadelphia — all waived their right to a preliminary hearing.
Cherry, who testified against Rabelow, and Muldoon are in the county prison in lieu of $1 million bail and face charges similar to those against Rabelow. Lerner, who is charged with all but the corrupt organization charge, is also behind bars, unable to post $250,000 in bail, while he waits for his trial.
The final witness to testify at the preliminary hearing was a visibly distraught Berks County woman who claimed that her mom might still be alive today if she had received the home care services to which she was entitled under a contract she had with a company headed by Rabelow
“That help may have prevented the cycle of devastation that led to her death,” testified Jaime Mott, whose mother died on Feb. 2, 2011.
Mott’s 82-year-old mother entered a hospital on Sept. 2, 2010, following a fall at her condo where she lived alone. She never returned home. Instead, she went to a rehabilitation facility following her release from the hospital and then entered a nursing home where she died.
Mott’s mother, who had been “slipping mentally” for over a year, had signed a contract in March 2010 with American Comfort Home Care Services for up to 600 hours of home care services at a cost of $583. American Comfort Home Care was headed by Rabelow and Cherry was its primary salesman.
While “ticked off” that Cherry had come to her mother’s condo and sold her the policy after she had previously warned him not to, Mott said she decided that the contract “might not be a bad thing” at that time since it purported to provide personal services such as assistance with bathing, grooming, dressing, shopping and other activities upon request.
Her mother was going into the hospital for elective surgery in April 2010 and the contract could come in play if her mother needed help after her release, Mott said.
While her mother came through the surgery it “compromised her mentally,” according to Mott.
Mott and her brother attempted to care for their mother for about 2 months “but we realized we were over our heads” since both also held full-time jobs and other obligations, Mott testified.
That was when they decided to implement the American Comfort contract.
However, Mott said, Cherry blew off three meetings they had made to discus the services that her mother would need. Following the third missed interview, Mott testified she called American Comfort, telling an office worker “someone better get back to me or heads will roll.”
Rabelow contacted her and again a meeting was set up to discuss her mother’s needs. Rabelow did not appear for the meeting but did come at another time.
It was at that time that Mott told him her mother would need between 20 to 25 hours of service a week and gave him a schedule of when a caregiver was to come to the home and what services would have to be provided.
Rabelow balked at the hours, stating they should start out slowly and see if the hours needed to be increased. He told her he had someone in mind for the job, according to Mott’s testimony.
Rabelow advertised on Craigslist for a caregiver and, after meeting an applicant in a doughnut shop, hired her. He told the applicant, who had a full-time job as an accounting assistant, that she would be working three hours, two evenings a week.
Shortly after the caregiver began working in July, it became apparent to both Mott and the caregiver that Mott’s mother needed far more assistance than two evenings a week, Mott testified. However, despite Mott’s multiple requests to Rabelow and to the caregiver, those hours were never expanded.
Her mother’s mental health continued to decline and she also began losing her balance, Mott said.
“She began spiraling downwards and then came the fall that sent her to the hospital,” said Mott. “I really believe that, if we had received the help we requested, the help to which we were entitled and when we requested it, Mom might still be here.”
Senior Deputy Attorney General M. Eric Schoenberg, who is prosecuting the case, said that only a few American Comfort clients ever received services for which they had paid. The services that they received, “always on a scale much smaller than requested,” came about only because of persistent family members, he said.
Rabelow had developed a strategy of “delay, lies, excuses, evasions and outright refusals” when it came to providing services.
Only 3 percent of the funds coming into the company’s business account ever went for services. The remainder of the funds used for commissions as well as for Rabelow’s personal expenses including a home mortgage, cars and student loans, according to Schoenberg.
Defense attorney Frederick S. Schofield, who represents Rabelow, had attempted to get the bulk of the charges thrown out against his client, stating that, at best, the prosecution had only shown that some 38 clients had requested services and did not receive them or did not receive all of the hours they requested and for which they had paid.
However, Schoenberg responded, Rabelow’s intent on defrauding all of his clients was clear because he essentially was charging them about $1.59 an hour for the hours provided in the contract when the industry rate is about $10 to $15 or even higher for caregivers, said Schoenberg.
“There was no staff to provide services and no reserve to pay for services,” said Schoenberg. “Money was going out as fast as it was coming in.”