As the awareness of elder abuse grows, it is very fortunate that the amount of cases being reported have grown as well. Elder abuse comes in many forms and is perpetrated by many different types of individuals. It can include emotional, physical or financial abuse by friends, family members, or strangers alike.
Elder Abuse Legal Prosecution
In the past several decades, legal provisions have made it easier to report cases of elder abuse and pursue prosecution of those who commit it. In the early 1980’s, the California Penal Code 368 was enacted, which allowed for the prosecution of those abusing dependent adults. In this case, an “elder” was any person of age 65 years or older. The punishment for theft or embezzlement of elders could include fines, jail time, or both. In 1991, the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act provided elders with a way to sue in civil court for financial abuse. More recently, the Financial Elder Abuse Reporting Acts of 2005 requires employees of financial institutions, including credit unions and banks, to report any suspected financial abuse to their local adult protective services or law enforcement agency.
County Judge Charged with Abuse
Nearly a year ago, our Bay area office first heard of a very disturbing case of financial elder abuse perpetrated by an unexpected figure, an Alameda County Judge, after an attorney contacted police to report suspected embezzlement. Followers of our blog might remember hearing of about Judge Paul Seeman’s alleged financial elder abuse of his neighbor Anne Nutting. Seeman was charged last June on one count of elder theft, 11 counts of perjury, and 20 additional crimes.
Seeman was the neighbor of Anne and her husband, who were forced to leave their home because it was inhabitable due to excessive hoarding. In 1998, Nutting’s husband fell, and that is when Seeman first began to interact with, and assist the couple. In 1999, he obtained power of attorney after stating he had found $1 million worth of stock certificates and uncashed dividend checks in the house. By August of 2004, Seeman had, “taken over almost all of the victim’s financial affairs, putting his name on her bank accounts as joint tenant and on her investment accounts as TOD (transferee on death,” as reported in a police report. The estimated worth of Nutting at this time was over $2.2 million. After the Nutting attorney initially contacted authorities about his suspicions, a two year long investigation took place before Seeman was finally charged.
Finally, after 9 months since his charge, Seeman has agreed to resign and never be a judge again. Seeman had initially remained on the bench and receive a paycheck even though he had not appeared in court since his arrest. Seeman agreed to resign in exchange for the Commission of Judicial Performance halting its investigation on him. Seeman is out on a $525,000 bail and is awaiting trial.
Most elders are not aware of the value of their assets. Complement that with a lower sense of awareness and possible disabilities that make them dependent on others for help, they are extremely vulnerable to being taken advantage of. CNN reported last year that senior citizens are swindled out of billions of dollars every year. MetLife, an insurance provider, presented research that shows in 2010, people over the age of 60 lost nearly $2.9 billion because of financial abuse. This is up 12% from $2.6 billion in 2008. There is no doubt that financial elder abuse is a big and growing problem in the United States. With a slow economy and an aging population, who holds the majority of the nation’s wealth, more cases are expected to be reported for an even greater amount than $2.9 billion.
This was a very saddening case of a public figure, who was supposed to uphold the values of justice, failing to do so personally. Nutting’s attorney was fully in the right to report his suspicions, whether he did it because of legal provisions or moral obligation. If you believe a neighbor, friend, or loved one is a victim of abuse, or if you yourself is a victim of elder abuse, contact our elder abuse attorney, Gregory Brod, today for a free consultation. Elder abuse is never okay, and we are here to help.
Accusations of Financial Elder Abuse