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Diminished Capacity

Commonly, the victims of elder financial abuse suffer from diminished capacity and are unable to manage their finances in line with their own self-interest and values.

After everything that had transpired up to this point we knew that we needed to go back to San Diego often and keep in touch with our mother on an almost daily basis.  Due to our concerns over my mothers finances and her diminished capacity we decided to start the process of getting a Conservatorship in place, which is a long legal process that can be expensive.

A conservatorship is a court case where a judge appoints a responsible person or organization (called theconservator) to care for another adult (called the “conservatee”) who cannot care for himself or herself or manage his or her own finances.

After informing my cousin Amanda (who was like a daughter to my mother) of what we had discovered (Financial Elder Abuse, Diminished Capacity, etc.) Amanda decided to go visit my mother.

Amanda had been sending groceries to my mother about once a month to make sure she had food. We had mentioned this to Christina during the conversation that we had with her and right after that, the following Text exchange took place between Amanda and Christina.

C: Hi I have a quick question for you…. I was told way back when that you were sending groceries to Irma because you and Elwin were worried that she wasn’t eating enough and was tiny. I am now hearing that it was because she told you that she didn’t have enough money to buy groceries. Can you please confirm your original intent for sending the groceries. I would greatly appreciate clarification. Thank you!
A: Hello Christina, why the questions? I started sending her monthly groceries because I saw that she was too thin and wasn’t eating enough. Her fridge didn’t have much in it. I felt her fragility didn’t allow her to carry too much up the steps so I wanted to save her the trouble. On a subsequent visit we talked about finances and based on her responses, I new that she was barely making ends meet. I felt that she couldn’t afford to buy much and was purchasing less food than what she needed. Her friend also told me that she was feeding her once a week and sending food home with her. She’s a very proud woman and it bothers her to admit her need. She is always telling me that she wants to show her gratitude and send me a little something but is not in a position to do so. I have always reassured her that I don’t need or want anything from her other than to see a little more weight on her bones.
C: Ok, thank you.

I find this exchange very interesting, it is like Christina was hoping that it was not about money, the money they had taken from my mother. We later came to find out that a lot of this food made it to Sam and Christina’s.

While there, Amanda would take her to a couple of doctors appointments that we had scheduled on our initial visit and help out with some of the initial paperwork for the consevatorship as well as a the ride service ‘On the Go’.

Prior to Amanda’s visit my mother had a bone density test and the results showed a 40% decrease in bone density,  she was given Risedronate tablets that needed to be taken once a month on the same day for the next 10 years.  The following is what Amanda experienced during her visit and it alarmed us as it was very different from our prior visit with our mother.

“I’ve explained to her that her the Risedronate tablet must be taken once a month on the same day for the next 10 years, twice she’s picked up the box and says “okay, twice a day”. I tried to clear it up for her and I’ve written it on the calendar.”

“She’s already saying that she is not going to take the bone pills because of the side effects it can cause. I told her to ignore what’s written in the packaging.”

“She did not send in the ‘On the Go’ enrollment, the envelope was opened and siting in her stack, she is out of envelopes, I’ll take it with me and mail it.”

“She still thinks that she owes me the August rent payment even though I have explained that it has been deducted from her credit union.”

“I spoke with the social worker from this complex and asked her to follow up on the following:

• Getting to her the rent payment coupons so that going forward your mom can pay by mail.

• That they check on her at least once a week, that they change her access code to the gate (it will different as of Monday and she may be locked out without the new code).

• That they take a look at the moldy and mildew state of her carpet (it’s gross and damp to the touch) there may be moisture seeping underneath and this may be cause of her chronic cough.

Her car was horrendous to drive, I believe that it needs steering wheel fluid (she should not be driving anymore anyway, she has little to no recollection of how to get anywhere, that may be the reason she is staying home and becoming disconnected from the world.”

“I reminded her that she does not need to go to the bank because we already went today and she had $100 in her wallet, she did not believe me until she looked and found it. She said that she would put it in a wallet she keeps in her drawer by the bed and I said that was a good idea. She went and placed it there, came back to the table and proceeded to once again say that she lost the money and couldn’t find it. I told her that she just got through putting it in the drawer and she looked at me in disbelief and went back to check again.”

“My dear Cuz, she needs help and should no longer be left alone.

This along with some other issues that Amanda saw really had us scared and concerned and it really upset us. It became painfully obvious that there was really no help locally as all my brother Sam and his wife Christina did was take and not help. If they had really been involved, what we found would not have been a shock to them or us.  Miguel and I decided to make a surprise visit to my mother the following month.  What happened and what we discovered on that trip was so astonishing that it proved that Truth is stranger than fiction!

1 MT

Assessment of Older Adults With Diminished Capacity- A Handbook

FSI | Elder Abuse Resource Center – Financial Services Institute

Stop Elder Abuse Now | Learn How to Report Abuse‎

Financial Abuse of the Elderly in Domestic Setting – Elder Mistreatment

 

The story from the beginning:

A Cautionary Tale

The Signs

The Story Continues…

The Discovery

The Visit

The Visit Part 2

The Visit Part 3

My Brother Miguel’s Voice & Perspective

Back Home

The Difficult Truth

The Reveal

 

 

 

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The Reveal

200wElder financial exploitation is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world, with the emphasis on crime.  Elder financial exploitation (abuse) involves the wrongful act of taking money or property and can be committed through scams, fraud or other means (embezzlement, identity theft, etc.) The perpetrators may include family members, caretakers, online or telephone fraudsters, financial managers, social contacts or service providers.

I know, I know I left you hanging last time and that wasn’t fair…El has been hounding me to get on the ball writing about the phone call. I hate feeling the way I do when I rehash this stuff even though, as I mentioned in my first post, my deepest hope is that it will help someone catch signs (earlier) with their loved one. So, write I will. One thing I do want to say is, in reflecting on how things were handled from all sides, I will be honest with you about how I or we could’ve said or done things differently so that maybe you can also use that information to have a more effective outcome than we did.

OK, the first call to Christina Hornedo.

Where I left you before was when Elwin and Miguel were in San Diego to take Irma to doctor appointments, get her assessed and to plan the next steps in caring for her. At that time, they began the discovery process of just what had been going on with her finances. Since Christina and the girls were visiting the guys at Irma’s apartment, they had decided to keep the visit positive to protect her, and the grand-kids, by not bringing this up in their presence.

Once the boys returned to their respective home cities, and we received additional information from Citibank and Adult Protective Services, a call to Christina was planned. We were devastated at what had come to light and decided that I would initiate the conversation with Christina. Since she had told me about Sam’s indiscretions that I detailed in my last post, we figured if she didn’t know anything and I reached out to her, woman-to-woman and wife-to-wife, then I could more gently break the news to her. But, if this information wasn’t a surprise to her, well…then we wanted to determine what she knew about the financial theft. We strategized our wording to leave things open-ended enough so that her initial response would be very telling. Indeed, it was. A week after the guys returned from San Diego, I set the call on speakerphone while Elwin listened and Miguel was silently conferenced in. Elwin took notes on what was said. We have reconstructed the following from those notes and filled in any gaps from Elwin’s, Mickey’s and my memories.

1 tpcChristina answered the phone and I asked if she had a few minutes to talk. She said, “I need to take my youngest daughter to the doctor.” I asked if everything was okay with her and after she told me what was going on and I asked her to call me back later when she had some time to talk. At this point she asked, “What’s this about?” I started by stating that “Something had been discovered and out of respect for her, I wanted to give her the courtesy of having the conversation, wife-to-wife.” She pressed and asked, “What’s going on?” so I said, “It’s come to light that Sam has been taking money from Irma.” Christina: “What are you talking about?” Defensively, she pushes back “Why is it any of your business?!?!” More a statement than a question. I said, “Well it became our business when Irma called us freaking out because she didn’t have enough money for her [$540] rent payment, and we had to send her $1,500 to bail her out because of the money Sam had taken from her.

Yeah, you read that right just $540.00 dollars…. not much at all for a woman who lived as austerely as Irma had. Irma cleared over $1,800.00 every month in her social security and pension since she retired (I’m not even accounting for her income when she was working so it really was much more until she retired). Since the year 2000, she had a minimum of $200,000 dollars in savings from the sale of her house; plus, in 2001 added another $150,000 from a life insurance payout. On top of all that, since 2002, we had been sending her another anywhere from $120 to $500/month consisting of repayment of a loan to us (including 7% interest rate we insisted upon, until repayment was complete). Just an aside, we felt paying her interest on her loan to us was the honorable way to do things. Since she would normally have had the amount she loaned us sitting in a bank or money market account earning between ½% – 5%, we insisted the 7% rate was the right thing to do to make sure her money was still working for her even though we were the borrowers. Just sayin’.

So, Irma had $540 in rent and maybe another $300 – $500 in expenses (Kaiser, car insurance, landline, cable, Electric) and a little bit of money for lunch with a friend or a small gift. She was always incredibly careful with how much she spent. Remember she had almost 400K in money market CDs.

This is her monthly income on top of savings.

$1,800 +  (Social Security and pension income)
$  300 + (Payment from us for the loan from 2002-2014)
$????.?? Interest income on the ~$400,000.00  she had in long-term CD/money market acct. (although, the interest was supposed to get reinvested each month she could have conceivably accessed the interest without ever touching the principle)
$2,100/monthly  Conservatively total income.
($1,100) Bills and discretionary expenses (let’s be generous)
$1,000/Month  Overage of this amount every month since at least July 2001, would have gone to savings in early years and on top of the hundreds of thousands that she already had invested.
Where did all that overage go?

Sorry, I digressed.

My point? Not only should Irma have had enough for her rent, but conceivably on top of her hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings, she should have had another $210,000 just sitting in her bank account. And she was calling us for $540.00. So yes Christina…you made this our business.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program…

1 countSo, Christina doesn’t think it should be any of our business. I then said, “Would it surprise you if I told you it was $5,000 this past year?” She replied, “That’s between her and Sam”. So, I said “What about “$10,000?” She replied, “I don’t know, again if she gives us money that her prerogative and again I just don’t see why this is any of your business?” I replied “Again, you guys made it our business when she couldn’t cover her bills because she was giving you her money.  And actually, just what we’ve found from this past year alone, is $16,000 …between clearing everything out of Irma’s bank account plus approximately $3,000 in overdraft Loans and Fees! Now she has no money to pay her bills and you’ve left Irma in a position needing to call Elwin and Miguel to pay for her expenses, so yeah, it’s our business now.”

Christina said, “I don’t know what Irma gives to Sam that’s between her and Sam” and “we have separate bank accounts because Sam would spend money before paying bills and checks would bounce for our bills, so I don’t know what she gives him.” I asked, even though we now knew the answer, I wanted to hear it out of her mouth, “Christina, you know how much he makes where do you think the $2,700/month for rent came from?” Nothing…… So I continued, “On top of that, Sam has been fraudulently using Irma’s credit cards! He apparently has sent some woman money multiple times from Irma’s credit card account.” Ah, now she’s interested… ”What woman?” she asks. I tell her.

I just thought I’d give you the courtesy of letting you know all of this and that Adult Protective Services (APS) has been informed.” Christina blows up “I’m gonna be really mad if things go legal!” I asked her “Who would you get mad at?” Her answer, “I don’t know.” I explained to her that Elwin had warned Sam back in March that if he continued to take money from their mother that he would contact APS.  Searching for an excuse she then says “You know Sam was never taught how to handle money and he’s not good with it, that’s not his fault! No one ever taught him how.” (she learned through their own accounts and the many bounced checks and overdrafts that he had no concept of how to handle money and she had to take over the finances). I said to her, “Christina, just because no one taught Sam how to handle money, doesn’t absolve him of learning financial responsibility! Nor does it excuse stealing it from his 85-year-old mother. You wouldn’t do this to your own father or mother, but have no problem doing it to Irma?!?!?!?

1 Just…. And then here comes the justification: “Well, we’re here and we take care of her.” which is pretty ironic coming from Christina because Irma had always told us, her friends, and other family that they never came around much (except for the holidays and birthdays, or whenever Irma went to their place because they used her as a built-in babysitter). We later found out from Irma that Sam would come around at least once a month to get money, not to visit, not to help her out with appointments or just visit. At that point, I mentioned about Irma’s Diminished Capacity she said that they had noticed that for the last few years (soooo…. you continued to take advantage of someone when you knew she was experiencing diminished mental capacity?).  At that point, Christina said “Look, I have to take my daughter to the doctor, I can’t deal with this right now.” I said, “That’s fine I just wanted to give you the courtesy of having this conversation, so you wouldn’t be blindsided.” (which clearly shouldn’t have been a concern on our part since she knew about getting money from Irma all along!). End of call.

The next day Elwin, Miguel and I were on the phone talking about the conversation that I had with Christina when the APS case worker called and we conferenced him in.  He stated that Sam had not returned his calls. We told him that Christina knew about the money and had mentioned that she had been aware of Irma’s diminished capacity for some time.  After hearing this, the APS case worker informed us that he was going to submit a criminal report for Financial Elder Abuse implicating Sam Hornedo.

Two days later after trying to get a hold of Miguel and Elwin, Christina called me.  She was angry that a police report/investigation had been opened.  She was not happy and proceeded to inform me that the she had spoken to Irma and had gotten the APS case workers phone number and called him.  He asked her questions regarding the money and then informed her that a police report had been submitted on the matter.  We had another long conversation basically rehashing the situation and I honestly told her how I felt regarding this matter. The conversation ended amicably but it finally proved that Christina knew what was going on all along and was complicit in this situation.

And there it is folks. In black and white.

2 call

How to Talk Honestly About Money With Your Family

1 alDiscussing financial topics with aging parents can be uncomfortable, but it’s so important.

Protecting the Elderly From Financial Abuse1 sign

Elder Financial Exploitation (Abuse) Reporting Requirements …

Continue reading The Reveal

The Difficult Truth

I’ve been putting off writing this, in part because so many of the things that transpired are incredibly upsetting and in part because no justification can excuse what Sam and Christina Hornedo did to Irma. I know we can only change what happens in the future, but I can’t help but wish things had happened differently, that we’d moved Irma out-of-state to our home, that we’d been able to improve her care, that we could have prevented the emotional and financial abuse. But here we are now, missing Irma terribly, and left with answers that are painful and excuses that leave you speechless. Rather than taking any adult responsibility for their lives, Sam & Christina instead opted to fleece a woman in her 80’s, living on a fixed income, of all her life savings AND monthly income, so that they could live a lifestyle beyond their means. I know writing is cathartic but more importantly it is my deepest hope that any of the things we share with you might help you to catch the signs as early as possible if someone you care about is being taken advantage of or suffering financial abuse.

1 comp 1Facts and Premonitions

I utterly adored Irma and have always said I was so lucky to get a second mother who was such a kind and lovely person. I have many wonderful memories of times we shared together, with other family, hers and mine, but especially treasure the talks we shared just between the two of us. But I get ahead of myself…first, I have to jump back to November 2015 when she came out for Thanksgiving, before we had any inkling of the abuse that was going on. What I write here is not to gossip but to lay the groundwork for understanding everything that took place with regard to Irma, her money, and the continued threat to her emotional and physical well-being leading up to her death.

At the time, I’d had a long conversation with Christina when I’d called to invite them to join us for Thanksgiving at our house, where they could Join Irma and bring the kids, have most of the cousins together and to stay with us for some family fun and bonding. What she’d told me on the phone was saddening but not surprising, given Sam’s track record of past behavior. Apparently, Sam had already moved out and they were separated as result of his constant lying, lack of financial restraint with their income, and his bastardizing the Church doctrine as an excuse to tamp down Christina’s strong and outspoken nature. Christina detailed Sam’s history of lying, of blowing through their finances on his electronics, Star Wars stuff, sixteen electric guitars, motorcycles, etc., his failing to tell her when their house was being foreclosed in 2010, until days before the bank was to take it. Since then, as a result of losing their home, she had to get much more involved in managing the finances to make sure their essential expenses got paid before the rest of the money was spent on lifestyle stuff. Sams bad behavior apparently continued. More recently he had come home and said, “hey we’re gonna go pick up a car,” that he’d bought from someone at his church I believe, but hadn’t discussed it with her prior (because he was the head of the household so why would he?). So Christina had to get even more involved in the finances and ultimately taking them over. Despite attempts at counseling with a pastor over these issues, Sam refused to change his ways. Irma always told me that Sam and Christina argued intensely, and that Christina was strong-willed and hotheaded. So, it was no surprise that she refused to accept his attempt at lording over her. Some years before they had drifted away from a church they went to as a family. The arguing continued, and by the time she and I had this conversation in 2015, she didn’t even know where Sam was staying, but said that Julia (their daughter) was so furious with Sam because of all the crap he pulled and that she wanted nothing to do with her father. 

“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went” – Dave Ramsey

People ask me how we didn’t catch the financial abuse of Irma sooner given these things we knew about Sam? Here’s the truth about that…I don’t judge others for making financial mistakes…in the past, we’d made a lot of financial mistakes ourselves. In my early twenties, as a result of not managing our money properly, or living beneath our means, we screwed up big time and our home was foreclosed on. The situation was more complicated than the typical story (the bank made a change on the loan via a loophole), but that doesn’t change the fact that we needed to grow up and not spend every penny we made). Simple math, we didn’t have the money to resolve it so we lost our home, which really sucked, but it was a big lesson in life about needing to live beneath our means and not be caught unaware in the future. Unfortunately, even after beginning to straighten up our financial lives, the consequences of our lack of budgeting were still coming to fruition. One night at 4 a.m. the repo man came for my car. I called my dad crying as this was happening and he yelled over the phone “God damn it, Andrea, you can’t have things you don’t pay for!” and then hung up on me. He was right, and although I didn’t like it, it was one of the best life lessons I have ever had.

That humiliating experience really made me determined to improve our money skills and make sure we had enough money put aside to cover our bills. Since those days, I’ve become a huge fan of natural consequences in life… for ourselves, in raising children, etc. We had to pay dearly for another fifteen years to clean up the mess we made, and in some ways, we’re still paying for those mistakes today because we could be so much more financially stable than we are now and in the future, but, well…natural consequences of our actions.

Anyhow, I have a dear friend that had around $70k in law school debt and she had utilized Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover (TMM) and really sacrificed to become completely debt-free in just 2-3 short years. Not long after, her mom became terminally ill and because she had no debt, she was able to move to another state and care for her mom until she passed away. The time she was able to spend with her mom without the stress of needing to spend half her days at a job to pay bills… well, you can never get back! That had a massive impact on me; there is no number of things, owning toys, that could match the value of being able to spend that time with someone you love, time that could never be recuperated.  So around ten years after losing our home, we too turned to the Dave Ramsey TMM to clean up our budgeting even more, in hopes we would be able to save for the future, and really get right with money all around.

Newsflash! Emergencies in life will always happen, count on it!

1 emergencies-of-life-instead-of-og-mandino-118552It took a long time for me to figure out that it is less stressful to be prepared for the inevitable emergencies that life will throw your way. By putting a little bit aside at a time (and sometimes, it was less than $10) and having some or all of the money when those emergencies arose, reduces a lot of stress. Not long after we’d gotten ourselves on the TMM program, due to needing mold-remediation in our home plus catastrophic illness in the family, we were on payment plans with almost every hospital in the city as well as with many specialists for at least another seven plus years. Still, we had to take care of our bills because no one was going to do it for us. It’s called being accountable for one’s actions and not being the victim to life’s circumstances. This didn’t make us experts at budgeting or financially stable overnight. We’ve lived month-to-month for almost all our adult lives, while rectifying our past mistakes, on top of handling many bumps in our road in life. But the point is, we’ve handled our own bumps.

The difference between Sam & Christina and us, is that we sacrificed ourselves, while they sacrificed Irma!

The biggest sacrifice we made to take financial responsibility for ourselves was moving away from our families and going where work was. It is the single deepest regret that I have today (and I have a lot to choose from!). But we simply could not continue living near our loved ones and all of our friends in beautiful San Diego and be able to support ourselves, without asking for help from others. Everything I’d ever known was in California, but we didn’t want to ask our families for money when we needed to learn to take care of things ourselves and how to live beneath our means no matter how small or erratic those means were. And guess what!?! It is really empowering when you take ownership of your finances and responsibilities! For one, when you earn your own money and pay your bills, there are no strings attached to how you spend it or don’t spend it.

My final point on that is, we constantly made an effort to get better at budgeting and saving a little bit so that life emergencies wouldn’t result in our having to ask someone else for help or rely on credit to carry us through. Over the years, we continually worked at it, and we still do, making smaller mistakes as time goes on but still learning from every experience and mistake we make.

Putting Irma’s Wellbeing First

So back to Sam & Christina, where I first started above…with all this in mind we thought, “let’s give Christina the benefit of the doubt that maybe she didn’t know about all the money Sam was taking from Irma. So, let’s approach this as though Sam had likely not told her anything as he’d done so many times before. Perhaps he’d done it without Christina’s knowledge or consent.” Little did we know then. But we were very concerned first and foremost about Irma’s wellbeing. So, when Christina brought the kids over to Irma’s place to visit with their uncles, out of respect for all present, Elwin and Mickey (Miguel) didn’t want to sour the visit by bringing up the proof they’d found about Sam taking Irma’s money. Sam wasn’t there, as he refused to talk to or visit with his brothers, presumably because of his shame about what he’d been doing, but what we now know is his modus operandi.

1 dfIn fact, Sam had actually been spinning lies to Irma about Elwin and Mickey, which was incredibly upsetting to her, causing her to be unable to eat little for days on end, getting horrible acid reflux, and causing her significant emotional upset. He’d put on the faux waterworks and whined to Irma “Elwin and Mickey don’t love me…. they’re excluding me and won’t talk to me, etc.” (What? Are we five?). These were blatant lies as we have the texts, emails and phone calls to prove it. In the long run, Sam created so much havoc and stress, causing Irma significant distress resulting in her having increased incidences of unresolved acid indigestion and driving her to tears. Knowing what we know now, I can’t help but wonder if he isn’t at least indirectly responsible for her needing a feeding tube to be put in because of the damage to her stomach caused by the long-term exposure to the additional acid. I realize that is speculation, and yes, maybe a bit inflammatory. I’m not saying he killed her outright, but it is my opinion Sam & Christina both, significantly contributed to creating emotional and physical distress for her over the years.

To put Irma’s care and feelings first, it was decided Christina would be brought in the loop via me, woman-to-woman, wife-to-wife after the guys returned home. Elwin and Mickey both listened in on and took notes during my call to Christina. I will say that one of us had a strong feeling that Christina was well aware of sucking Irma financially dry and sadly, how very right he turned out to be. You’ve obviously already figured out by now that Christina not only knew about the money taken from Irma but what came out of her mouth will leave your jaw on the ground. Next time: Initial conversations with Christina

Andrea Hornedo

The Total Money Makeover – Dave Ramsey

14 Signs of Financial Elder Abuse – LawyersAndSettlements.com

Back Home

When I returned from visiting my mother I was angry and sad. I was really angry that my 51 year old brother (Samuel Hornedo) was so lazy and selfish that he found the need to take advantage of my 86 year old mother who was an easy target for him.  Samuel was the baby and as such my mother babied and coddled him his whole life.  She let him take advantage of her as she did not like conflict. He took advantage of that as well as her diminished capacity.

I was sad that my mother had become destitute because of the selfishness, sad that Samuel had never grown up and was not a man but still a selfish spoiled child. Unfortunately my mother was partially to blame for the situation that it turns out had been going on for a long time.  In the end she was not responsible for her actions as she was suffering from Dementia, which made it easier for Samuel to get the money.

1 24Like I have said in prior posts, I called Adult Protective Services and had a case opened.  They were very thorough in gathering as much information from me for their investigation. A few days later the APS case worker went and visited my mother and asked about the $13,000 that my mother had given (sic) Samuel. She stated that she had not given him that much money.  The case worker took my mother to the bank and the bank confirmed that was the amount written out of her account in the past year.  My mother was shocked as she did not realize or remember giving him the money.  During his visit the case worker gave my mother the  St. Louis University Mental Status (SLUMS) Test which is a test for diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.  My mother scored in the Mild Cognitive Impairment range just barely below the Dementia threshold.

The APS case worker attempted multiple times to contact my brother Samuel Hornedo but to no avail.  As such, he finally decided to file a criminal police report.  Once Samuel found out about the police report he finally responded to the APS case worker.  If I was being accused of something I knew I had not done or had an explanation for, I would get in front of it and prove my innocence or explain myself.  This did not ever happen with Samuel.  The silence spoke volumes!

The next chapter of this story will be written by my wife Andrea who finally spoke with Samuels wife (Christina Meehan Hornedo) regarding the Elder Financial Abuse of my mother.

Dementia puts seniors at risk of financial abuse | Money | Dallas News

Why Elder Financial Abuse Is Such A Slippery Crime – Forbes

 

 

My Brother Miguel’s Voice & Perspective

Would You Be Willing To Report A Family Member For Financial Elder Abuse? The National Center on Elder Abuse noted that most abusers are family members. And they tell us that only 44 out of 1000 instances of abuse are reported to authorities. Why aren’t more cases reported to the very authorities capable of stopping the abusers? We must stop this $2.9 Billion dollar a year problem. If you know of someone being financially abused, please speak up!  You can remain anonymous in your reporting, just as you can with any crime.

1 a IGHOn March 14th, 2016 I received a panicked call from my mother in San Diego saying that she didn’t have enough money in her account to pay the rent. My 85 year old mother, Irma “Paquita” Hornedo, had been living by herself in a senior community and was receiving a subsidy that lowered her rent from the San Diego Housing Commission due to her low income. Her income during that time was a total of $1,802.14 per month from Social Security plus a small pension from the school district she had worked for. I told her to go to her bank and call me from there. She called me and with the aid of The bank’s rep we discovered that her account had been overdrawn and had dipped into her over-draft account because she had given a check of $1,000 to my youngest brother Sam on March 2nd. She had also given him a check for $500.00 back in February of 2016. I explained to my mother that this had to stop and that she couldn’t afford to keep helping my youngest (51 year old) brother in this way because she simply couldn’t afford to do this on her limited income. I explained that he was old enough to handle his own finances and shouldn’t have been depending on her. I extracted a promise from her that she wouldn’t give him any more money and I sent her a check for $500.00. At that time I had just been laid off. I contacted my middle brother, Elwin who lives in Texas and explained to him what I had discovered. He sent my mother a check for $1,000 to help her out. Elwin and I began planning a trip to meet in San Diego to help my mother out with managing her finances and any other help we could set up for her. We planned the trip for June of that year. I would be coming from Colorado and Elwin from Texas.

The last time I had seen my mother was the previous Thanksgiving. We had flown her to Texas to join Elwin’s family and my wife and my daughter and I so we could celebrate the holiday together. We had invited Sam and his family from San Diego as well but Christina, Sam’s wife said they couldn’t attend for financial reasons. I hadn’t seen my mother for a couple of years and I was astonished and heartbroken at how frail and skinny she looked. She had always been a slim person but when we weighed her with clothes on the scale came to 74lbs! We noticed that her short term memory was beginning to slip as well. We knew then that we would have to keep a closer watch on her and began to make general plans to start doing that. This would entail calling her more frequently and start thinking about getting her into an independent or assisted care facility. Then I received that call the following March.

After having learned that my mother had been giving money she didn’t have to give to my youngest brother Sam, I sent him the following email:

Sam,

I know that we haven’t been the closest of brothers for which I take much of the blame. I know I could have attempted to reach out to you more over the years and I apologize for this. This grieves me and I wish that our family was closer. I know that you and Christina are currently having problems but I am also hopeful that you will work things out through the marriage counseling that you are both undergoing. I know that you were away from your family for a while and that this caused an estrangement between yourself and your daughters. I am very sorry to hear this as the most precious possessions we have are the relationships with our loved ones. I know this first hand because there was a time when Bianca and I were estranged. We have repaired that relationship and are now on great terms.

I hope that you know that I care about you as my youngest brother and as a brother in Christ. I hope you know that I am writing to you now out of a concern that is borne of that love. The truth is that I need to confront you about an important matter. I would rather speak to you about it over the phone but you have not returned my phone calls. Recently it came to my attention that you borrowed $1,000 from Mami a couple of months ago. My understanding is that you told her that you needed this money because you couldn’t pay your rent. The truth is that Mami didn’t have the money to spare either but yet she gave it to you not knowing how adversely it would impact her own finances. I am requesting that you return that money to her as soon as possible. It is obvious that a 51 year old son should not be asking his 85 year old mother for help with rent. If your finances are in such dire conditions, get some help but don’t go preying on a frail, easily taken advantage of 85 year old woman (your mother!).

Elwin and I are going to soon spend 3 days in June with Mami to help her get some things together. We may or may not see you but that may be a good time for a reconciliation between us. I certainly welcome that if you are open to it. I have heard that you are upset that we don’t communicate with you or keep you apprised of what it is we are planning in regards to our mother, but you should understand our reluctance to keep you in the loop: your recent behavior does not make you a trustworthy person in our eyes.

I know I should have confronted you earlier and that Elwin has already confronted you. I just hope that you take these rebukes the right way, not in anger and as an attack on you but as an opportunity to look within yourself, look to our Lord for help and begin healing your life.

Please know that I am praying for you and that I love you as a brother.

From the heart, your brother,

Miguel

Sam never responded to this email but the day before Elwin and I were scheduled to arrive in San Diego, we received the following text from him:

“Hello, please do not make an effort to see me when you’re here. I have way too much other stuff going on and don’t want the additional stress. I’m firm on this and would appreciate you both to respect my wishes.”

I wasn’t going to get into an argument with him so I just responded: “NP bro. I’m praying for you.”

Well, Elwin and I had already made an appointment to take our mother to her Bank so that we could get on her accounts and more closely protect what little assets she had. We set up a joint account for all three of us in which only Elwin and I had control. We also got put on our mother’s account to be able to monitor it and transfer money to the joint account as needed. We started setting up automatic payments for her bills so that she wouldn’t have to concern herself with them. I had also previously contacted Jewish Family Services (JFS) in San Diego to send a representative to meet all of us together and do an evaluation of my mother’s capacities. We could also sign my mom up for services they provided such as transportation, home visits and food. This was scheduled for our visit. Finally, we scheduled and took her to see her doctor at Kaiser. I had previously made the arrangements for myself and Elwin to obtain medical Power of Attorney for her. We wanted to express our concern regarding my mother’s lack of weight and get the doctor’s opinion regarding the onset of dementia that my mother may have been experiencing.

1 Pic IGHThe meeting with the evaluator from JFS went well. She thought that my mom was doing very well compared to other elderly folk she had visited. The doctor showed us the range of my mother’s weight over the years which tended to fluctuate in pounds between the low 70s to the mid-80s. At the time of the Doctor’s visit my mom had increased her weight to 80lbs which appeared to be within her norm. The doctor concluded that my mother was experiencing “age appropriate” memory loss. All of the above findings reassured us and we thought that we were starting to get things under control until we started looking at her bank account for the previous year and one half.

What a shocker that turned out to be. My mother had broken her promise to no longer help Sam financially. Not only that, we could never have imagined the extent to which she had been helping him. Between ourselves, we ended up calling my mom’s propensity to “help” Sam financially, his own personal ATM. When we started to look back in my mother’s checking account, we found that she had given him $13,525 since September of 2014 (this from a woman whose net income was less than $21,626 per year). Since we had sent her money to help her pay her rent in March, she had written him checks for $400 on May 20th and another one for $250 on June 7th, just two days before Elwin and I were scheduled to fly in and help her. We felt betrayed. With the money that we were giving her to help her out, she was turning around and subsidizing our youngest brother’s fiscal irresponsibility and dependence. When asked for an explanation, our mom stated that she was helping him because he was intimating that he couldn’t pay his rent. Needless to say, Elwin and I were very upset with our mother, our brother, and the whole situation.

Below is an excerpt of a list of checks my Mom gave Sam from September 2014 to May 2016:

Amount Date Check Written
$800.00 9/5/2014
$25.00 9/30/2014
$1,200.00 10/6/2014
$800.00 11/27/2014
$1,200.00 1/6/2015
$1,200.00 1/29/2015
($800.00) 2/20/2015
$800.00 4/5/2015
$1,000.00 5/7/2015
$1,300.00 6/1/2015
$1,000.00 7/6/2015
$250.00 7/15/2015
$250.00 9/4/2015
$500.00 10/31/2015
$200.00 11/21/2015
$500.00 12/3/2015
$100.00 12/4/2015
$500.00 1/2/2016
$550.00 1/23/2016
$500.00 2/4/2016
$1,000.00 3/7/2016
$400.00 5/20/2016
$250.00 6/7/2016

After we found out in March how Sam had been receiving money from my mother, my brother Elwin, emailed Sam that if he asked for another penny from her, he would report Sam to Adult Protective Services (APS) and to the San Diego Police Department’s Elderly Abuse Division. He did this in June when we found out that Sam was continuing to ask for and receive money (that she couldn’t afford to give). The APS case was assigned to Avery Ware who attempted to contact Sam who never returned any of his calls. Mr. Ware did eventually speak face to face with Sam and his wife Christina after he had filed a police report.

That Friday night, June 10th, 2016, Elwin and I were faced with a dilemma. That night, Sam’s wife, Christina, and Sam’s three daughters were coming over to visit with us at my Mom’s apartment. I was leaving to return to Colorado the next day. Should we tell Christina what we had discovered that very day about our brother’s financial abuse of our mom? We decided to hold off so that Andrea, Elwin’s spouse could call Christina and disclose our findings to her woman to woman. We didn’t know if Christina had been complicit in this abuse and we wanted to gauge her reaction when she heard the news. That last evening was difficult, holding a secret knowing what their husband and father had done. Sam’s oldest daughter Leia made a comment during the conversation which proved ironic. She was working and supporting herself and said something to the effect that she wasn’t depending on anyone financially. I thought to myself, “If you only knew what your father has been doing”.

Elwin and I have been criticized by Sam’s daughters for bringing this elderly abuse to light. They have stated that this is a private family matter and we shouldn’t be airing this dirty laundry. I can understand that. It is embarrassing and hard to believe that your own Dad is taking advantage of their grandmother in this fashion. When we found out the extent of the abuse, we were flabbergasted. With every revelation uncovered about how he had taken advantage of our mother, I couldn’t believe it and thought it couldn’t get worse but the facts are undisputable. We are publicizing this behavior by my youngest brother, Samuel A. Hornedo, (a worship leader in several Christian churches in the San Diego area) because he has not come forward to take responsibility for his actions even though he has been given many opportunities to come clean. Therefore, this is a cautionary tale about safeguarding our elderly parents who are often most vulnerable to abuse by their dearest loved ones.

This is only the beginning of the story. As we proceeded and investigated further, we discovered that there were hundreds of thousands of dollars missing from a trust account that my mother had set up. Writing my recollections of this story brings back feelings that I would rather not re-experience. Also, as we continue to write about it, many occurrences will read like fiction because they are hard to believe. We would often comment that we couldn’t make this stuff up. It is truly stranger than fiction.

By Miguel Hornedo

Perpetrators of Elder Abuse Are Usually Family Members

The Visit Part 3

1 fraudThe Consumer Financial Protection Board issued a 62-page report and an 8-page advisory in 2016 calling on banks and credit unions to do their part to prevent, recognize, report and respond to elder financial abuse. Many large financial institutions have special dedicated teams to combat elder fraud already, and smaller ones have creative approaches like a fraud busters program that recognizes tellers who catch a thief, but the approaches really run the gamut in terms of how robust they are, says Naomi Karp, senior policy analyst with CFPB’s Office for Older Americans.

As we found out the depth of the Financial Abuse perpetrated by my brother Samuel Hornedo we then had a decision to make. Would we tell Sam’s wife Christina of the fraud and money he had been taking? When would we bring it up as she was coming over to my mothers apartment with my nieces. Did she know about it?  At the time we thought that based on the history of lies and deception by Sam that she was probably an innocent in this whole situation.  Miguel and I decided to wait and to just have a nice visit and not bring anything up just yet.

The things we found out on the visit; in the prior year My brother Samuel Hornedo had managed to get approximately $13,000 in checks and cash from my mother. Between overdraft Loans and Fees it totaled over $16,000. We also found that Samuel had used her credit cards and perpetrated Credit Card Fraud and Identity theft.  We could not find her missing money, her will and trust was missing as well as any records of various checking, savings and investment accounts. She was definitely was suffering some Cognitive Impairment.  She could not manage her bills anymore and could not be trusted with her checkbook.

What we did to stem the Financial Issues caused by my brother and her cognitive issues was the following:

  • We opened a new Joint Checking Account so we could keep an eye on her money.
  • We were able to get on her Credit Card accounts and requested the complete history of transactions from them.
  • We took away her Checks and set up online Auto-pay for all of her bills.
  • We took over paying her rent from the new account.
  • The bank was aware of the financial abuse and promised to contact us anytime our mother came into the bank.  They were aware and knew who was perpetrating the abuse.
  • We contacted the credit card companies and had the account #’s changed.
  • We contacted Adult Protective Services and opened up a case file.
  • We contacted the San Diego District Attorney who specialized in Elder Abuse.
  • We made all of my mothers friends aware of what the situation was as well as all of our extended family.
  • We started looking into setting up a conservatorship or getting a Durable Power of Attorney.
  • With the help of free legal council we had my mother write a new will.

In the next blog post my brother Miguel will give his perspective on this visit and what the plans would be going forward. We created this blog to bring light to this situation and to help others identify and prevent this from happening to them. Please Repost!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Visit Part 2

elder-scamThe capability to make decisions regarding one’s financial assets is one of the first abilities to decline as cognitive impairment encroaches, according to a report by the AARP Public Policy Institute. This decline of skills – often referred to as diminished capacity – can occur well before a diagnosis of a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s and/or dementia. Given that diminished capacity greatly impairs one’s ability to make financial decisions, its detection is critical to protecting the elder from financial harm.

We had made an appointment with my mother’s doctor to address her weight and her memory.  When we visited the doctor and brought up our concern that she weighed 80 pounds he assured us this was normal for her.  He then showed us that her weight fluctuated between 75 to 85 pounds and this was normal.  We later found out that a few years earlier this same doctor had diagnosed her as being malnourished. He did a brief memory test on her and decided that she only suffered from age appropriate memory loss.  This was a bit of relief but it still concerned us that it seemed worse than that. He then scheduled a bone density test and a CT scan of her brain.

Miguel and I continued to go through our mothers files looking for any other accounts that she may have had.   We then found out the depth of the financial abuse perpetrated by Samuel Hornedo. She did not know where all her money had gone. She did not remember the $150,000 life insurance payout that she had gotten when her ex-husband died. She did not remember how my younger brother had gotten and used her credit cards. On her Citibank Credit card we found the following:

DATE DESCRIPTION AMOUNT
7/26/2015 PAYPAL *CANDYGIRL7U   4029357733    CA  $149.21
7/27/2015 STATE OF CALIF DMV INT 800-7770133   CA  $193.00
7/27/2015 STATE OF CALIF DMV INT 800-7770133   CA  $217.00
8/11/2015 PAYPAL *BANDINDUSTR   4029357733    CA  $99.00
8/12/2015 STATE OF CALIF DMV INT 800-7770133   CA  $14.00
11/11/2015 CHRISTIAN MOTORCYCLIST 8703896196   AR  $15.75
11/20/2015 ATT*BILL PAYMENT       800-288-2020  TX  $1,102.79
1/20/2016 CHECK N GO COLLECTIONS 513-2296745   OH  $63.00
2/20/2016 CHECK N GO COLLECTIONS 513-2296745   OH  $252.00
TOTAL  $2,105.75 

The State of California  DMV payments were for the registration of the 3 cars Sam and Christina Hornedo own.  My mother was not a Christian Motorcyclist and was not in a band.  The AT&T bill payment was not for my mothers account and The Check N Go Collections were all Sam.  Finally, there were more PayPal Payments to CANDYGIRL7U totaling over $600. CANDYGIRL7U was a woman named Lourdes who my brother Sam was sending money to with my mothers credit card through PayPal. We at this point contacted Citibank Visa and reported the Credit Card Fraud/Identity Theft and with my mothers consent got access to manage her accounts. They say Truth is Stranger than Fiction and this became painfully true.  In all of my life Miguel and I had never seen anything like this…we were beyond astonished! We found more financial abuse and fraud the more we dug into the documentation we had.  More to come in part 3. Please repost and Re-Tweet this blog to help bring awareness to Financial Elder Abuse.

Financial Elder Abuse – Please Help Us Spread The Word‎

Elderly financial abuse and exploitation prevention – AgingCare.com