SE Texas Record

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

State of Florida sued for trafficking and abuse of elderly under guardianship

Lawsuits

By David Yates | Sep 17, 2019


SAN ANTONIO -  A group of adult children sued the state of Florida’s governor and attorney general in Florida Northern District Court, alleging that, under court appointed guardianship, their parents’ estate, assets, 401k funds, social security money, jewelry, cars and homes are being stolen.

After all is liquidated or redistributed, the senior citizens under these alleged unconstitutional court appointed guardianships are starved, denied medical care or prescribed high doses of toxic psychotropic medication to intentionally cause death, according to a press release.

Plaintiffs Barbara Stone, Lesa Martino and Patty Reid are collectively calling for an executive order from President Trump to the FBI and the Department of Justice to enforce the law and criminally investigate the Defendants.

“The Florida guardianship statute is being used as a pretense of legitimacy for an immoral, inhumane, barbaric color of law proceeding wherein judges are working together with attorneys and guardians to abuse vulnerable adults,” wrote the Plaintiffs in their Sept. 5 complaint.

Governor Rick DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody are Defendants named in the lawsuit along with Florida Senate Chairman Bill Galvano, Florida Speaker of the House John Oliva, Office of Public and Private Guardians Director Carol Berkowitz who recently resigned along with the state's Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Secretary of Elder Affairs Richard Prudom. 

The lawsuit alleges that case law created based on judge’s opinions and rulings is modifying constitutional intent and being used to legitimize a human trafficking, organized crime racket sponsored by the state of Florida.

“The Florida judiciary are unlawfully overseen only by the Judicial Oversight Commission, which has no independent oversight authority and no prosecutorial power to investigate and discipline their own member's conduct,” the trio of plaintiffs plead.

For example, in Orlando, Rebecca Fierle, former court appointed guardian, is under investigation for allegedly causing the death of a man who was under her care by issuing a “Do Not Resuscitate”  order without consent.

“The grotesque death sentences to which our families are being subjected mandate and warrant urgent and immediate relief,” the complaint states. “These are crimes against humanity, against vulnerable adult loved ones and their entire families.” 

Probate court-appointed adult guardianships are designed to help the aging and people with disabilities manage their lives but in recent years a slew of federal and state lawsuits have been lodged across the country, alleging financial exploitation, civil rights violations, isolation, medical neglect, abuse, wrongful death and Americans with Disabilities Act violations. They include:

  • Ohio - The Saghafi family’s attorney Charles Longo filed a racketeering lawsuit in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas against court appointed guardians who allegedly instituted a divorce between the 89 year old family patriarch Dr. Mehdi Saghafi and his 85 year old wife of sixty years, Mrs. Saghafi, who was guardianized in 2013. Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Sherrie Miday has set a hearing for Sept. 25.
  • Michigan - Attorney Bradley Geller’s lawsuit against the state of Michigan, filed under the False Claims Act, in Michigan Eastern District Court for the abuse of senior citizens and people with disabilities under court appointed guardianship is currently on appeal with the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati.
  • Texas - San Antonio Attorney Phil Ross lodged two Constitutional Rights violation lawsuits this year in federal court involving 75-year-old Shelley Thomson who was guardianized in Comal County and 81-year-old Charles Thrash who was guardianized in Bexar County.
As reported in the Southeast Texas Record, these lawsuits and others haven’t escaped the watchful eye of Congress, which re-introduced HR 4174 on Aug. 7 to enact protections against elder abuse and neglect under guardianship.

“Since we originally introduced our bipartisan bill, we have added three new co-sponsors to a growing list of supporters nationwide,” said Florida Congressman Darren Soto. “We are also requesting that the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over these matters, bring our legislation up for a vote immediately.” 

In addition to Congressman Soto, co-sponsors of HR 4174 include Debbie Dingell of Michigan, Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Charlie Crist and Gus Bilirakis both of Florida.

“Our Seniors and people with disabilities deserve our immediate attention to this situation,” Soto said.

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