Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lack of protection for 'too trusting' elderly & incapacitated against those who take the most must be corrected in law

Aside from the seemingly endless ranks of crooked professionals who take advantage of the elderly, ill and incapacitated when there is a hint of controlling their money, those who can be or appear to be closest to a person, can pose the most risk to that individual they are protesting to care for - as many stories in the national press have revealed over the years.

Endless examples exist of the likes of lawyers, carers, doctors, accountants, etc, who seemingly take it upon themselves in what would appear a noble gesture, to look after someone not only doing so as the professional they are, but also as a friend.

My own mum, sadly, was a victim of such a scam, where a relative, and the executor of my late father's estate, who both hated me intensely, decided to claim everything for themselves, and followed the well trodden routes those people who engage in these scams do.

I wrote about what happened to my own mum here : A picture is worth a thousand words - Images of fraud reveal corruption & deceit by lawyers & accountants in the Scottish Borders

The documents which accompany the above article are a fairly straightforward presentation of how people go about taking their victims money, little by little, then the lot, from the poor informed person they protest to be 'looking after' or seeing to their interests ... all the while only doing it for the money of course, spreading no end of poison, hurt and lies against people who may pose a threat to their little scheme to take the money, and sparing no effort to split families, relatives, friends, even communities, to cover their tracks at every turn until of course, they are found out and exposed.

Firstly, it begins as a few suggestions, perhaps attempts to disgrace close members of the victims family so they are kept out of the picture, making sure no one gets to find out what is going on, then the work of the con artist begins, of taking control over a victims money, their entire estate, taking the 'power of attorney' (which effectively is giving your life away when you agree to it), and the poor victim being coerced into handing over enormous 'gifts' such as property, huge sums of cash, bank transfers, and 'loans' (never to be repaid of course), and investments which obviously no one would hand over unless they had been bullied or coerced into doing so.

Heres a fairly typical example reported in the media of someone preying on an informed victim : Iain Catto, a former solicitor and senior Scottish Conservative, still with many connections within the Tory party, who robbed his disabled client, whom Catto called a 'friend'.

Iain Catto, offered to look after the finances of Francis Fleming, 59, after he became partially paralysed following a savage assault.

Catto, who was sacked from his job as a solicitor for gross misconduct, was found by the court which sentenced him to jail, to be regularly taking money from Mr Fleming.

Jail term for former councillor

A former Conservative councillor who stole £70,000 from a disabled client who depended upon him as a close friend has been jailed for 27 months.

Disgraced Iain Catto, 41, offered to look after the finances of Francis Fleming, 59, after he became partially paralysed following a savage assault.

Catto, who was sacked from his job as a solicitor for gross misconduct, was regularly taking money from Mr Fleming.

Catto pleaded guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to the theft.

You callously took funds from Mr Fleming to support yourself when you knew that he depended on that money and you
Sheriff Kathrine Mackie

He was stealing sums of £11,000 and £9,000 at a time between December 2002 and 2004 from the criminal injuries pay-out his client had received.

He even sold some of his victim's shares to get more cash.

Sheriff Kathrine Mackie told him: "You callously took funds from Mr Fleming to support yourself when you knew that he depended on that money and you. It was a gross breach of trust."

Mr Fleming's son Frank MacLennan, 42, hit out at the sentence outside the court.

He said: "That is not long enough for what he did to my father. He should have been given at least three or four years."

Bank statements

Edinburgh Sheriff Court had heard that Catto, a member of Lothian Regional Council from 1990 to 1994, frequently asked Mr Fleming to sign blank cheques pretending to look after his finances and had bank statements sent to his home address.

Mr Fleming, who was left partially paralysed and impaired following an attempt on his life in 1968, trusted the solicitor so completely he even gave him a key to his Craigentinny Road home in Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, Catto was buying himself airline and train tickets for the UK and abroad, hotel rooms, restaurant meals, computer software, £300 worth of goods from Oddbins and expensive haircuts.

'Bled father dry'

Catto carried on with the scam until he was found out by Mr MacLennan, who moved from Inverness to Edinburgh to look after his father in July, 2004.

Mr MacLennan said outside of court: "He bled my father dry. We had been planning to move to Spain but now that idea is gone. He lied to my dad and me from the start.

"Although he has repaid the money he cashed in shares that were earning my dad an income. I discovered the stealing when I saw my dad writing blank cheques and looked into it.

"I feel very angry and my dad is devastated and hurt. He considered him to be a very close friend and depended upon him."

I wrote about the Iain Catto story here : Don't trust your lawyer or accountant when they say they have your best interests at heart ...

Mr Catto of course, always protested he had the best interests of his poor client & 'friend', Francis Fleming, at heart - this being a common protestation of those who loot and plunder the vulnerable.

Another not too distant example of this kind of 'feasting off the elderly, infirmed & vulnerable, came with a Daily Record exposure of a Priest, who took control over a frail widow's affairs.

Father Azad apparently flew back to his native Pakistan, reported the Daily Record in the following article, when the Police were called in to investigate the affair ...

FLYAWAY PRIEST AND WIDOW’S £1 MILLION

Jan 24 2007 Exclusive by Karen Bale

Catherine, 85, lets him control her fortune

A FRAIL widow with dementia signed over control of her £1million fortune to her priest.

Catherine MacNeil, 85, gave a £120,000 house to Father Mustaq Azad, and he took control of the affairs of her disabled son.

Fr Azad flew to his native Pakistan after police were called in to investigate the affair. His superiors in the Catholic Church had told him repeatedly to give up his involvement in Catherine’s finances.

Catherine’s angry niece, Morag O’Halloran, 45, of Irvine, Ayrshire, said last night: “This has been an absolute disgrace. A priest is in a position of trust.

“Anybody knows an 85-year-old with dementia is not in the frame of mind to make huge decisions, like handing over her home and rights to a man she hardly knows.

“My aunt signed her life over to him. And until the authorities got involved, he had control of her finances, around £1million.”

Catherine, of Campbeltown, Argyll, was a regular worshipper at Fr Azad’s church, St Kieran’s, in the town.

She spent much of her spare time there, helping at bake sales and organising events.

Catherine met Fr Azad three years ago, when he took over the parish after arriving in Scotland as a missionary from Pakistan.

The pair became friends and he began to visit her frequently at home.

Catherine had a massive stroke in February 2004 and dementia set in soon after.

Morag said: “It was tragic. She has never been the same.

“She had always been fiercely independent. She had been a district nurse and she dedicated her life to looking after her son.”

Social services began helping to look after Catherine and her son Ian, 49, who has a rare genetic disorder which causes learning difficulties.

Then, in March 2005, Catherine gave Fr Azad power of attorney to handle her financial affairs. Seven months later, the priest took on the same responsibility for Ian.

Fr Azad did not tell Morag about his role in her aunt and cousin’s lives.

Catherine gifted the priest her second home, a £120,000 cottage on the Hebridean island of Barra. And six weeks later, according to Morag, he put the house up for sale.

Morag said: “It has remained on the market for more than a year because the people of Barra are aware of the situation. Nobody wants to hand over cash for the house.”

Catherine is now back in hospital after suffering a second stroke. And Morag claimed that Ian, who needs constant care, was left to “fend for himself” as his mum’s condition worsened.

She said: “We discovered he’d been left without his medication for 10 days and had been cooking himself fish fingers every night in the deep fat fryer.

“He was terribly frightened and in an awful state. He phoned and told me his house was going to be taken away and that he would be homeless.

“Then we found a letter from the council saying Ian was on a list for housing.

“Catherine has enough savings for her and Ian to live comfortably for the rest of their lives. There’s no mortgage on the house in Campbeltown and no reason for Ian to be given council housing.

“We’ve now taken Ian to live with us. We will fight tooth and nail to protect him and his interests.”

In October 2006, social workers told Catherine’s family she needed to be moved to a nursing home.

Morag wanted to place her in a home in Saltcoats, a few miles from Irvine, so she and Ian could visit her.

But as she tried to make the arrangements, she found out that Fr Azad had power of attorney.

Morag said: “We were absolutely shocked. Fr Azad never mentioned it. He had kept us in the dark. We couldn’t believe my aunt would have given him control of her life. She hardly really knew him.

“We spoke to Ian, who said he had found cheque books that belonged to his mum with Fr Azad’s name on.

“He had been suspicious and hidden them, although he was too frightened to say anything.”

Fr Azad refused Morag’s request to move Catherine to Saltcoats.

He also failed to hand over the old lady’s financial records and legal documents to social services. In a bid to force the priest to co-operate, social workers called in police.

A police investigation began. And at a meeting on December 29, Fr Azad offered to resign his power of attorney over Catherine’s affairs.

The Bishop of Argyll, Ian Murray, also intervened, demanding that Fr Azad hand over responsibility to Catherine’s family.

Fr Azad was traced in Pakistan, where he is on leave, on Monday of this week. He agreed to hand over his power of attorney for Catherine, and Mora g immediately began moves to have the old lady placed in Saltcoats.

Morag said: “It is unbelievable that social services were forced to call the police to make a priest help an old woman.

“It is beyond belief. Who knows what he was thinking? She is a very wealthy woman and he knows it.”

She added: “Catherine will be given 24-hour care and is in safe hands. In the hospital she has fallen so many times and doesn’t have the care she needs. They don’t have the staff and they need the bed back.

“We are delighted Catherine will now be in a home where she can see Ian every day. She was pining for him.”

Catherine’s family now plan to force the priest to hand over his power of attorney for Ian.

Morag said: “Ian has a lawyer to fight his case for him.”

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said last night: “We do not condone Fr Azad’s actions. He was told repeatedly that he should give up and hand over the power of attorney.”

A church source added: “Fr Azad was advised from the start not to accept the power of attorney or ownership of the house.

“He was told repeatedly to hand the post back. The Bishop last told him at the beginning of January and expected it to be done immediately.

“It’s a very remote parish and nobody was aware of everything that was going on.”

Robert Hynd, a lawyer acting for Catherine’s relatives, said: “We have finally received documents from Fr Azad and he has agreed to hand over the power of attorney to Catherine’s family and allow her to be moved to a nursing home.”

James McEwan, of the law firm representing Fr Azad, said: “Mrs MacNeil gave the house in Barra to him as a gift. I know she took financial advice.

“She asked Fr Azad to take on power of attorney in case he required assistance to speak on her behalf. He has now handed back power of attorney.”

Police said: “Inquiries were carried out but this is not a criminal matter.” Argyll and Bute Council refused to comment.

‘This has been an absolute disgrace. A priest is in a position of trust. My aunt signed her life over

No word yet on further developments, but the same pattern of control, and huge unexplainable gifts being given by the poor victim to those who seek to control all their money for themselves, exists in all of these cases.

Its not just lawyers, accountants and priests who can do this ... as an ex policeman in England proves here : Detective ‘helped himself to widow’s assets’ and who was recently reported by BBC News as being jailed on a related matter here : Detective jailed over card fraud

The same common threads again ... best intentions of course, but all the while, its all about the money and nothing else ..... money, and believe me they are not too fussy about how they take their money off their victim .. and when the money dries up, the poor penniless victim and their family are cast aside, perhaps to line up a new target ...

So, it seems there is little protection for the elderly, infirmed & vulnerable when it comes to long lost relatives or professionals turning up on the scene when there is a hint of getting some money ... surely its time to correct that, and ensure there is a power to detect and intervene in such a situation long before the con artist gets most of the poor victims money, and ultimately gets away with it too while the victim is left penniless, and the family split through the poison of those seeking to take all the money for themselves.

Here, the final example. reported last weekend in the Sunday Mail, of a nurse who certainly got her monies worth from the person she was looking after ... in mysterious ways it seems ... This must surely stop, and new ways must be found to prevent what is turning into a common type of sting these days ...

Nurse Plunders £300K From Dying Patient

Mar 16 2008 By Marion Scott

Exposed: Nurse Who Plundered £300,000 From Doc On Death Bed

A NURSE systematically plundered £300,000 from the life savings of the dying doctor she was supposed to be caring for.

Isobel White was hired from a private agency to look after reclusive GP William Derek Wilson, who was suffering from a chronic brainwasting disease.

Bachelor Dr Wilson, 76, amassed a fortune with his frugal lifestyle.

He wore clothes he'd had for decades, still had his parents' furniture and spent just £14-a-week on shopping, surviving on a diet of ready-made shepherd's pie.

White, who earned £36,000 a year as a live-in nurse, was employed by Positive Nursing Agency to provide 24-hour care for the confused OAP.

She quickly transformed his lifestyle ...and her own.

She booked a £8000 Mediterranean cruise for them both.

She also bought a house with a £100,000 loan from Dr Wilson then persuaded him to change his will and sign over his £250,000 flat to her.

Court papers even accuse her of forging the doctor's signature on a £28,000 cheque payable to her.

White was quizzed by the police days after the doctor died of progressive supranuclear palsy - the same condition that killed actor Dudley Moore.

A theft prosecution was dropped but White was sued after lawyers for Dr Wilson's estate said she used "undue influence" to "induce" him to give her cheques "at a time when he had neither the mental nor physical capacity to do so".

She could not repay the missing money - now almost £400,000 with interest and legal fees - and was bankrupted.

Two flats she owned - including the doctor's old home in Pollokshields, Glasgow - were repossessed.

Now she faces being evicted from the £350,000 home she shares with her 79-year-old mum in nearby Newlands.

Last night White, 53, claimed she had planned to pay Dr Wilson back and said she "tried to breathe new life into him".

She added: "Dr Wilson was a reclusive, withdrawn man who didn't take care of himself.

"His clothes were decades old and his furniture had been owned by his parents. It was clear he had no real enjoyment in his life.

"I started taking him on outings, encouraged him to buy a new wardrobe and start enjoying life. We became friends.

"I encouraged him to take holidays and accompanied him so he was looked after properly.

"He paid for a 19-day cruise on the Oriana but took ill and had to be flown home."

White claims she began quizzing the doctor about his will because she was concerned about what to do if he died.

She said: "His first will left almost everything to a cousin he'd told me he didn't like. When I pointed that out, he called the lawyers and changed it.

"He asked me what I wanted, so I told him I would really like his flat, so he agreed."

The second will - written in September 2000 - left the flat to White and £400,000 to his friend, accountant Douglas Anderson.

After the doctor was taken to hospital it emerged White had received large sums including a £100,000 "loan", £60,000 stock transfer and cheques.

She said: "I fully intended paying him back from the sale of two flats - one belonging to me, the other to my mother who was moving in with me.

"But before I could get those properties on the market, Dr Wilson went into hospital."

He died in Mearnskirk Hospital on May 31, 2002.

A fraud investigation was launched into transactions totalling almost £300,000 but White was told in September 2006 there would be no proceedings against her. She said: "I will go to my grave swearing I didn't take money from Dr Wilson.

"Those cheques were to pay household expenses such as a special hoist to lift him and an orthopaedic bed."

White continues to work as a nurse because she is not under the jurisdiction of the Nursing & Midwidery Council.

An NMC spokesman said: "Our code of conduct states nurses must refuse gifts, favour or hospitality that might be interpreted as an attempt to gain preferential treatment."

Bank papers show 23 cheques totalling more than £4000 paid to White

I took him on outings, encouraged him to enjoy life..we became friends'

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Much better story than the judges who should be out jailing this lot for ripping off their victims.

I say jail the lot for 10 years minimum and take everything they have and give it to the people they conned !

Anonymous said...

clearly not enough checks in the system to prevent this at present and I'd be willing to bet there are many cases unreported by families or the victims for fear of their bully thief and friends

Accessories to abuse and gross neglect said...

Hi Peter

Good article (as always) raising an issue dear to my heart – and yours too I suspect, given what happened to your dear mother (R.I.P) who was very cruelly and callously swindled by those wicked and criminal individuals who were entrusted to protect her best interests. How do they sleep at night? Obviously no shame or conscience whatsoever.

The very vulnerable and weak in Scotland’s “civilised society” (ahem) should always be properly protected and cared for, but alas the laws and our “great and good” politicos fail miserably to do so in so many cases. And the supposed independent organisations and charities in Scotland who are there to represent and protect the rights and interests of those vulnerable individuals (brain damaged, mentally impaired, mentally ill, frail elderly, dementia sufferers and so on) are usually far too closely associated to local and central government (local and national politicos) that they never speak out as they should, remain silent, turn a blind eye and do effectively nothing to expose and highlight the abuse of the individual. That is certainly my experience over the past few years as you know. Clearly, too many conflicts of interest at play with those so-called independent charities – and I could cite quite a few if you require the names … and quite a few so-called “brave, fearless and respected” investigative journalists too, who all did nothing in the appalling case concerned.

Better still. Why not ask Messrs MacAskill, Salmond and Ms Sturgeon who are always willing to oblige when you approach them seeking help and intervention to independently investigate the case circumstances of an abused and neglected adult over several years? They will always help in such appalling circumstances and speak out against their friends in local government, as well as other individuals and groups involved. So too will the Scottish Public Services “Ombudsman”, Professor Alice Brown(nose), who is very independent and always criticises those in local government and other public bodies who abuse and neglect very vulnerable individuals.

Second thoughts…

Anonymous said...

Disgusting.Anyone who does this should face at least 5 years in Jail.
I see they got your mums pension book too.Criminal to say the least.

Rpger White said...

A friend of mine called me from Help the Aged telling me to read this.

This is a very common tragedy to happen to old people as you say Peter.There certainly does need to be something done and thanks for highlighting the issue again.Please contact Help the Aged and tell them a bit more about your work.

Also very sorry to learn of what happened to your mother.If the signs had been spotted earlier perhaps it could have been avoided but people who do these things exhibit an unnatural control over their victims almost like brainwashing.

Best Wishes,
Roger White.

Peter Cherbi said...

#Anonymous @ 7.19pm

I agree with your comment.

#Anonymous @ 7.46pm

Yes, I think the numbers of people and families who are being hit this way are much higher than we all realise, and intimidation by those who are bleeding their victims dry of money, and their life, will obviously play a part in the lack of some people's ability to report incidents.

# "Accessories to abuse and gross neglect" @ 3.53am

I believe we all have to join together on this one and force the issue to be considered properly at political level. There is obviously a lack of power in law, or a lack of will by existing agencies to do anything about these kinds of incidents, let alone detect them while in progress.

Preying on the helpless by these con artists must be curtailed and stopped - the power exists to do it, if not, laws or an agency must be created to deal with it effectively in the here and now, not wait until the crime has been committed, or the victim is dead.

#Anonymous @ 4.35pm

I agree with you, and yes the accountant did take my mum's pension book.

I have to wonder how many people get their pension books confiscated by an allegedly high flying accountant with a chequered past just begging for newspaper headlines ...

#Roger While @ 5.03pm

Thanks for your comment which I also agree with.

I will take up your suggestions ...

Anonymous said...

Good post Mr Cherbi and you are correct.There is a distinct lack of will on the part of the courts or cops to do anything in these cases.

I wonder if any of these msps know some of the people involved in these scams because only recently i heard of an snp msp in fife who was asked to look into a similar situation only to tell the person to take a hike.Word now has it that same snp msp knows the person (another nurse) very well who has been leeching off an ms victim.

I think Ive given you enough to follow that up.

Anonymous said...

I also think a lot of these stories go unreported.The victims are being bullied right left and centre by the people taking their money and they dont know where to turn or who to trust.

Do you have any advice for preventing this ??

Peter Cherbi said...

#Anonymous @ 1.56pm

Thanks, if there is anything you want to say on that case you can post a comment marked "Not for publication" and I will pass on the information to the media, as well as have a look into it myself.

#Anonymous @ 3.53pm

Well at the moment the only advice I can give is to report matters to the Police immediately if you know of someone doing this against a vulnerable person, and make sure you also call in a journalist, because media attention during a Police investigation should benefit the interests of justice and ensure everyone knows what has been going on.

A.Mcpherson, Edinburgh said...

Good advice Mr Cherbi as always.I often read your blog,have never commented until now.I wish there were a few more like you in Scotland willing to have a go at the wrongs of life.
Keep up the good work and keep up the fight.
If you can,get into the newspapers and write about the same kinds of things you do here.

Anonymous said...

Peter
I agree with your advice but I would suggest people call in the press BEFORE they call in the Police just to make sure whatever scandal they are reporting gets the attention it should be due AND those who are defrauding people get their names and photographs splashed across the newspapers.

Anonymous said...

Why did the Crown Office drop the prosecution against the nurse ? She should have been clapped in irons along with the flying priest or did the church have a hand in smoothing that one over when they should have been supervising their priest a lot better.
The lawyers sued the nurse so is this another story where civil law has had to be used over criminal law just because criminal law is lacking as is the point of your story ?

Terrible all round and I agree with anyone who says that people who victimise the helpless and vulnerable should be locked up forever.

Anonymous said...

I like what you wrote here :"Firstly, it begins as a few suggestions, perhaps attempts to disgrace close members of the victims family so they are kept out of the picture, making sure no one gets to find out what is going on, then the work of the con artist begins, of taking control over a victims money, their entire estate, taking the 'power of attorney' (which effectively is giving your life away when you agree to it), and the poor victim being coerced into handing over enormous 'gifts' such as property, huge sums of cash, bank transfers, and 'loans' (never to be repaid of course), and investments which obviously no one would hand over unless they had been bullied or coerced into doing so."

Trust me when I say this - you hit the nail on the head with that.Happens in every case and I should know because I have had to deal with several of these cases in my line of work.

Anonymous said...

Very dangerous to give a power of attorney to people these days and I agree with you - its little more than signing your life away so don't do it unless there is absolutely no way around it.

I am just so disgusted by those documents you have over what happened to your mother and that no one has even thought to act to do something since they have been up on the web all this time.The benefits agency for a start should not have handed your mums pension book over to that accountant.Bloody ridiculous.How many other times have they done such a thing?

Anonymous said...

Glad my son saw this.There is an elderly lady at the end of the street getting slowly conned out of everything by her relatives.She has been a delightful neighbour but her family are trying to cause no end of problems for residents here.I will be calling the press as you suggest to expose some of the things she has been telling me.Keep up the good work Mr Cherbi

Anonymous said...

agreed that anyone who preys on people like this should go to jail no exceptions

Anonymous said...

they most certainly did that to my mother. I have seen it for myself what they do and it has happened to me. now I sit in a homeless shelter with no help, no money and angry. I am angry becuase these people are the ones who did this to her and then to me and I get no help. look at this site and if you can read between the lines you will see what has gone on and what is going on.www.robertallen.com as you can see so much more. the same people who were to have cared for my mother betrayed her as they betrayed me.

Anonymous said...

Catto they should call him Ratto, Lawyers would rob their own mothers, evil trash.