Losing the capacity to manage your financial affairs is a frightening prospect, and watching a loved one lose capacity is just as daunting. It seems incredible that anyone would take advantage of such circumstances, but unfortunately it is all too common.
In June of 2016 My brother Miguel and I Flew to San Diego to check on my mother and her finances. We had scheduled a doctor’s appointment and an Elder evaluation by Jewish Family Services as well as a visit to her bank. Before going out to San Diego my older brother Miguel had sent an email to Samuel in an attempt to talk to him regarding the money situation.
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.
Prior to going out to San Diego we had been trying to get a hold of our brother Samuel Hornedo to discuss and try to understand the situation. Calls, texts and emails were never answered until prior to our arrival where Miguel got the following text:
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.
Sent from my iPhone
We were a little bit astonished but not entirely surprised as all we got was silence from Samuel. When we arrived in San Diego, Miguel and I picked up our mother and went to her bank. We informed the bank of the Elder Financial Abuse and decided to open a joint account that my brother and I would share with her and manage. At this point we transferred most of her money to the Joint account and I proceeded to set up all of her bills on auto pay so she wouldn’t have to write checks or even have any need for them. This way when she needed money (Cash) we would transfer money into her account so she could withdraw it and we would know where the money was going. The reason we took over her finances was that we suspected that she was in the early stages of dementia and in her diminished capacity would continue to miss bill payments and continue to be taken advantage of by my brother Samuel Hornedo. After we made the bank aware of the financial abuse they informed us that they would watch out for my mother and call us if she came in for a cash withdrawal and who she was with.
We gained access to her checking account and started going through her transactions and found that she was still writing checks to Samuel. In the prior year he 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 to pay the registration on his 3 cars, purchases from Guitar Center and multiple PayPal payments to a woman (not his wife Christina).
As I promised I contacted Adult Protective Services after I got back from San Diego and opened up an investigation into the Financial Abuse perpetrated by my brother Samuel Hornedo. In the next post I will detail the depth of the financial abuse. What would you have done?
Addressing Diminished Capacity: Recognizing and Protecting Against …
National Center on Elder Abuse
Department of Justice Elder Justice Initiative
I have been questioned as to why I am writing this blog and specifically naming names. The reason behind it is to bring to light the all too common occurrence of Elderly Abuse. If I can help one person avoid being abused or help someone identify the signs of abuse and stop it, then it is worth it. It is also to expose and make accountable those who took advantage of my mother (Samuel Arnaldo Hornedo & Christina Hornedo) for their own selfish benefit. Finally, it is a way for me to cope with what has happened and the injustice of it all. My hope is that those of you that read this will repost and re-tweet my entries and that way more people can be made aware of this issue in general.
‘Financial exploitation occurs when a person misuses or takes the assets of a vulnerable adult for his own personal benefit. This frequently occurs without the explicit knowledge or consent of a senior or disabled adult, depriving him/her of vital financial resources for his/her personal needs.’
In the case of the exploitation of my mother by my brother Sam Hornedo and his wife Christina Meehan Hornedo they took advantage of her vulnerability due to her mental status and her codependent relationship with them.
In March of 2016 my brother Miguel called me to tell that my mother had called him in a panic to tell him that she did not have enough money to pay her rent. It turns out that she had written a check for $1,000 to my brother Sam so that he could pay his rent. She said that he had come to her crying that he couldn’t pay his rent (more on this later). My older brother who was unemployed at the time sent her $500 and I sent her $1,000 to make sure that she could pay her rent which was all of $540 and have money for food and expenses. We talked to my mother and told her that she could not give her youngest son (51) money that she did not have.
I sent my brother Sam an email that stated if he ever tried to discuss finances (sic) with my mother other than paying her back that I would call Adult Protective Services and the police on him. I expressed my disappointment and embarrassment that a 51 year old man was dependent on his frail 85 year old mother who was on a fixed income.
My older brother and I then planned to go out and visit my mother in San Diego to review her living conditions, finances, visit her doctor and speak with my younger brother. What would you have done at this point? Please re-post this blog.
‘Assets are commonly taken via forms of deception, false pretenses, coercion, harassment, duress and threats.’
There is more detailed information about financial exploitation here.
In 2015 my older brother Miguel (the good and honest one) called me and asked if he and his wife could come for Thanksgiving and also suggested that we fly my mother out since we hadn’t seen her in a couple of years. When I went to pick her up at the airport I was shocked at what I saw. As my cousin had stated, she was frail and was skin and bones. As many of you know there comes a point in your life where the roles get reversed and you become the parent and your parent becomes the child. This is a role that my brother and I took on out of necessity but mostly out of love for this beautiful woman. She weighed all of 74 lbs. and we saw that her memory was failing badly. After she had gotten back from visiting she called me to see if I could send her the monthly check as she was having difficulties making ends meet (In my last post I mentioned that she would tell me that the money I was sending her was going into her savings, by this time I had sent her approximately $3800 over the prior year). I sent her the money and then my older brother called stating that she had called him as she was overdrawn on her checking account. He sent her $500 and told her to go to her bank and call him when she got there. The bank stated that she had maxed out her overdraft and when we asked her why, she stated she had paid off a loan she had gotten a couple of years earlier but could not remember what it was for. Again, I asked “You aren’t giving your money to Sam (Sam Hornedo my younger brother) are you?” She told me “No” and that she does not have money to give. It turns out that she was lying either out of shame or to protect my younger brother. What we found out in the next couple of months was astonishing, sickening and sad. Stay tuned…..
If you suspect a senior is being financially abused, report the situation to the proper authorities, who can then make a decision about whether or not to investigate. Every state has at least one toll-free number—either an elder abuse hotline or an elder abuse helpline—to call to when elder abuse is suspected.
Some states, such as California, have an Elder Abuse Act to provide remedies for elders who’ve been financially abused. Some links below:
Elder Financial Exploitation | National Adult Protective Services
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Spotting elder financial abuse | Consumer Information
Both men and women are financial abuse targets, but more women are exploited and abused because they live longer. In addition, the targets…
- Typically live alone or with a non-spouse relative √
- Have assets (a mortgage-free home, jewelry, etc.) and resources (bank, savings, retirement and investment accounts) √
- Often have chronic conditions — arthritis, heart disease, cognitive impairment, etc. — that make it difficult to get out and isolate them. √
- Were raised in a time when women were taught to be giving, nice and polite √
√ Unfortunately all the bullet points above were checked off for my mother.
We did not find out about the Financial Abuse until 2016 when it all unraveled and my mother asked for help. Prior to that there had been some signs and I wish I had paid better attention. That is now in the past and the least I can do is make people aware of this issue and tell my story.
The first sign was an email sent to me and my brothers from my cousin (who was like a daughter to my mother). The following are excerpts from that email:
“I recently had the pleasure of visiting with your mom. You all know that she is very special to me and it always frustrates me when I have to go so long between visits. The rest is not so easy for me to say. Her living situation is the following:
• Health – morbidly thin, nothing but skin hanging on a very small skeletal frame. She is hard of hearing, with an unbalanced wobbly gait. She has a difficult time navigating stairs. This is probably the reason that she cannot carry groceries to her apartment on the second level and the lack of food contributes to her malnourishment.
• Her physical condition and challenging steps also contributes to her inability to do laundry.
• Her physical condition limits her driving ability and therefore she only navigates within a very restricted geographic parameter (thank God).
• Her finances have grown tighter, limiting her ability to: shop for enough groceries; request and physically move to a first floor location; and finally, follow-up with her healthcare needs (she has not seen a doctor since January, but has lost significant weight and has grown alarmingly weaker since then).
At her age, she really needs to have support and be surrounded by a loving family. She may only have a few months to a couple of years left and it would be terribly sad and grossly shameful to receive a call alerting any one of you regarding the finding of a lifeless body, and to learn of your mother’s death in a lonely apartment surrounded by no one. It is not my intent to be critical, but to raise awareness. She may have successfully hidden her situation from you and I’m just trying to bring clarity to her situation.”
At the point that I received this email I was sending my mother anywhere from $250 to $500 per month to help her out and finish paying back the interest on a loan she had given me. I called her immediately and spoke to her regarding the information I had gotten from my dear cousin. She assured me she was fine and that the doctor had given her a clean bill of health. I proceeded to tell her that if she ever needed money beyond what I was giving her to not hesitate to ask. She told me she was fine and had plenty of money in savings. After this I started calling her more frequently. She would forget why I was sending her money and I told her that I had paid off the principal of the loan she had given me years earlier and now I was paying back the interest that we had agreed on. I then had the thought to ask her “You aren’t giving the money I am sending you to Sam (Sam Hornedo my younger brother) are you?” She told me “No” that the money was going into her savings. We now know that it along with whatever money she had was going to Sam and there was no more savings. I will continue this story in my next blog post. What I learned from this is to be more involved and a little bit nosy in order to make sure that your elderly parents are not being taken advantage of and to be more involved in their lives. I have to live with this but maybe I can help someone else avoid this sad and disgusting situation.
I want to write a cautionary tale of what has transpired in the past 2 years, but I do not know where to start. Should I start at the end like I did for my mother’s eulogy and hit the important items I want to convey? I have been writing this in my head for a while now, processing the events leading up to this moment.
My deceased mother was the victim of Elder Abuse at the hands of my younger brother Sam Hornedo and his wife Christina. They have stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from her, that left her almost penniless with very little left to live on. My older brother Miguel and I discovered that my mother was writing checks to Sam that she could not afford to write. It turns out Sam would come crying to her for years that he could not pay his rent. So, she would sometimes write him multiple checks monthly totaling $2000. She was on a fixed income where she would clear approximately $1800. So how could she possibly afford to “give” him money?
In 2000 at the start of the California Housing boom, she sold her house and cleared $180,000. In 2001, my father died and part of their divorce decree was that he had to have a life insurance policy of $150,000 payable to her. Prior to that she had received $40,000 from the sale of a Florida house she got in the divorce. All in all, $370,000. She lived in an elderly community where her rent was anywhere from $550/mo to $800/mo depending on subsidies from the San Diego Housing Commission. After receiving the money, she bought herself a 2000 Honda Civic for $13,000 and gave each of us $2000.
So, the breakdown of her money is as follows:
Home Sales: $220,000
Honda+Gifts ($ 19,000)
So, through research and forensic accounting we have confirmed that over $134,000 in checks and cash were taken by Sam and Christina and we cannot find the remaining $217,000. We think it disappeared between 2010 and 2012 when Sam got my mother to redo her will and made him the Trustee of her trust. We believe that when he was the trustee he plundered her remaining accounts and hid the money. When my mother discovered this, she changed the trust and made my older brother the trustee again. I will continue to write about our experiences in dealing with this issue. They say that truth is stranger than fiction and I could not have made this stuff up. Some of it is so ridiculous that it is funny and some of it incredibly sad and beyond belief. Stay Tuned!