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 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 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 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