Hard Choices

A week after my mother got officially diagnosed with early stage dementia she got a notice from the California DMV that her license had been revoked. She was blindsided and devastated as she was a fiercely independent woman. The Neurologist that had seen her had contacted the DMV because of her concerns over Irma driving.

I did not disagree with the decision but I think it could have been handled better by the neurologist. She could have told us what she was doing and we could have prepared my mother for it.

She called crying and was devastated that she had lost the ability to drive legally. Fortunately at the time she did not have the car in her possession, I had arranged for an old friend to pick up the car and take it to a mechanic to fix some issues with it. We decided once the car was gone through and repaired that we would sell the car.

My mother kept asking when she would get her car back and I had to remind her that even when she got it back she would not be able to drive it. She would forget due to the dementia and we would continue to remind her of this and asked her if it was ok to sell it as we would not make the decision without her consent. We reiterated to her that she could no longer drive and that it would make sense to sell it. She agreed and once we got the car back we were able to sell it to one of her close friends. We put the money in her now growing bank account. It was nice to see that her finances were stabilizing!

The challenge at this point was convincing her to use the ride share services provided for seniors in her area. We needed to make sure that she could go to the grocery store and be able to go to any doctors appointments without relying on friends or family. We did manage to get groceries delivered to her but also wanted to make sure that she had contact with friends as she was a very social person.

On our next trip to visit her we had planned to visit a senior community in San Diego where one of my mothers friends lived. It was St. Paul’s Senior Manor which offers independent living, assisted living and personal care, memory care, medical oversight, and life enrichment. We visited it and we were really impressed with the services provided (3 meals a day, wellness checks, many activities and outings, shuttle services) at an affordable price for the independent living option. We looked at an apartment just a few doors down the hall from my mother’s friend. We were excited at the possibility of her moving there. We got an application and filled it out.

The next step in the process was an interview with Irma to assess her and make sure that she would qualify for the independent living option. We were worried that due to her early stages of dementia would disqualify her from living in the independent living section of the facility. She nor Miguel and I could afford the assisted living option. When Irma had initially retired she had gotten both long and short term care options that would have covered the cost. Unfortunately at some point she could no longer afford these options as she was giving all of her money to Sam and cancelled them. After talking to the director of St. Paul’s to schedule my mothers interview and telling her what was going on with Sam and Christina and the Financial Abuse, she decided that she probably would not accept my mother to the facility. Her reasons were that a she had to have a family member nearby that could be relied upon and trusted. I wasn’t happy about it but I also understood her reasoning. We continued to search for alternatives for her. She lived in an apartment on the second floor of a complex and we worried about her going up and down the stairs. We had put in a request to move her to a first floor apartment when one opened up.

Next, the beginning of the end…

https://www.rocketlawyer.com/article/what-to-do-if-you-suspect-financial-abuse-of-an-elderly-person.rl

https://www.ioaging.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Financial-Abuse-An-Advocate-s-Guide.pdf

The Surprise

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I want to make something perfectly clear, the whole reason for this blog (that we plan to turn into a book) is to bring to light the all too common occurrence of Elderly Financial Abuse.  If we can help one person avoid being abused or help someone identify the signs of abuse and stop it, then it is worth it.

We had decided that we would go to San Diego at the end of August unannounced as we wanted to fly under the radar and plan bank and doctor visits while we were there. We had already initiated a Medical Power of Attorney and on this trip, we would initiate a Durable Power of Attorney (POA) as a stop gap until we could have the Conservatorship put in place.

I flew in on August 31st and my mother was ecstatic to see me when I showed up at her door.  I took her to lunch and I discussed with her in detail the Power of Attorney, what it was, why we were doing it and the benefits of it.  From this, we could help manage her bills, manage her bank accounts and help her find money that we thought she still had.

We had the POA signed and notarized and then went to her bank and gave them a copy of it and requested all of her bank statements going back to the year 2000. We had requested this so that we could forensically see where all her money went. We had already done this with all of her Citibank Credit Cards. I then took her to pick up some prescriptions and ran a few errands with her.

Prior to going out to San Diego my sister-in-law jokingly commented that since we were going out at the end of the month maybe we would run into Sam attempting to make a withdrawal from his free ATM.

After spending a wonderful afternoon with my mother we headed back to her apartment and as we pulled in we saw my brother Sam sitting on his very expensive motorcycle (Hog) in the apartment parking lot. We pulled up to him and the look of “What the F*%#!” on his face was priceless. He wouldn’t even look at me or acknowledge me and he proceeded to tell my mother that he was there to take her to the bank (sic) and to help her get her prescriptions. I told him that we had already done all that and he continued to ignore me for which my mother was very upset. You see, my brother Sam would continually cry to my mother that his brothers didn’t reach out to him or talk to him. I was very nice and cordial to him when I saw him and he was the one not acknowledging me. He got on his hog and rode away as my mother was asking him to stay and spend time with us. He did not want to have anything to do with that and this greatly upset my mother.

She did not understand why he was being like this and his behavior deeply affected my frail mother. I told her that maybe it was shame for what he was doing (to be honest he has no shame as if he did he would not be stealing from his mother). This incident also proved to my mother that what he was saying about Miguel and I was not true.

The truth was that we had thwarted his attempt to take money out of the free ATM and he was not happy about it.ATM

On my way to my hotel I got a phone call from Sam’s wife Christina saying that my brother told her that he saw me and she was surprised that we had not told them I was coming into town. She proceeded to chastise me for not communicating with them and that as family we should communicate and then asked why I was in town. I told her I was there to take care of things that my mother needed and to take her to her doctor appointments. She proceeded to tell me that they always take her to her appointments, I stated that this was not true as I had to fly in all the way from Dallas to help her out. I told her that I was there to protect her from any more financial abuse from them. She then stated that she never took money from my mom and that it was all Sam. I then made the point that the Germans in WWII knew the Jews were being slaughtered and sat idly by and did nothing and if that was her excuse then she was as bad as them. Sam was listening in on the conversation as I could tell he was on another line hearing what was being said. I finally hung up on her as she did not like what I was saying and became unhinged.

That night I got an automated text from my mothers Citibank credit card (one we had changed the passwords on) that it had been used to pay the DMV in California. It was not my mother who initiated the transaction. It seems that Sam had physical possession of a card and used it. Nothing like a little credit card fraud among family.

Again, we were astonished that this was still going on even after Adult Protective Services had submitted a police report on Samuel.

Financial Crimes Against the Elderly Legislation

Protecting the Elderly from Financial Abuse

A Complete Guide to Elder Financial Abuse

Revisited, The Elder Abuse Tale

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I have not posted for this blog for quite a while. The reason was that I was in the process of a career change and directed all of my energy towards that goal. I am re-posting this as a refresher of what had transpired at the end of my mother’s life. I am doing this not only as a journal of what happened but also as a way to hopefully help and guide others who are or have experienced in their family Financial Elder Abuse. The cautionary tale…

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
Insurance:      $150,000
Total:              $370,000
Honda+Gifts ($ 19,000)
Remainder:  $351,000

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!

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 re-post 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