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!

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!

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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