By Janet Phelan
Senate Bill 178, The Robert Matava Elder Abuse Prosecution Act of 2017, has passed both the Senate and House and has gone to the President for signing into law. The Bill contains provisions on multiple issues involving abuse of older people, including telemarketing scams and elders incarcerated in foreign countries.
The Bill also takes a stab at addressing guardianship abuse, which has now become rampant in the US. This sort of elder abuse, however, involves multiple levels of government officials, including judges, officers of the court, non-responsive APS and police agencies, as well as already documented complicity by the very Department of Justice which is now mandated with investigating these crimes.
Guardianships are money intensive. It is estimated that 1.5 million adults in the US are under a guardianship, with assets between $50 and $300 billion having been transferred to the guardian.
The Bill requires at least one assistant attorney general to be appointed to each federal judicial district to investigate reports of wrongdoing by guardians. The Bill also mandates training a crew of FBI agents to investigate crimes by guardians and sets up a “Elder Abuse Czar” to oversee these new provisions.
However, the Bill ignores the glaring reality that guardians must report their actions and account for the ward’s funds to the court. Judges regularly approve accountings that don’t add up and also accountings that are clearly fraudulently enriching the guardian and attorneys at the expense of the life savings of the ward.
And judges do far worse than accommodate theft.
When California guardian Melodie Scott decided to withhold life-saving antibiotics from Elizabeth Fairbanks, who had come down with pneumonia, this decision resulted in Fairbanks’ death. San Bernardino Probate Court judge Mike Welch approved this decision by Scott without so much as missing a beat. Recently, Scott’s license to practice as a guardian (professional fiduciary license) was revoked by the State of California in a State office of Administrative Hearings Court.
About ten years had passed since Scott pulled the plug on Elizabeth Fairbanks. Dozens of other questionable deaths have been alleged to have taken place on Scott’s watch, including that of Lawrence Yetzer, Stevie Price, D’Wayne Cory and Frank Bellue, to name but a few. The current San Bernardino Probate Court judge, Kyle S. Brodie, however, continues to appoint Scott to new cases. Nothing in Senate Bill 178 remotely addresses the complicity of Probate Court judges in guardianship abuse, either physical or financial.
Recent investigations have raised serious questions as to whether these judges are being paid off under the table. The bizarre and untruthful response by the Department of Justice official Marve Williams, reported in the Vegas article linked above, should raise alarm. This is the same Department of Justice that is going to address crimes of guardianship abuse, according to Senate Bill 178.
While the Congress should be congratulated for finally attempting to address the issue of guardianship abuse, the Bill sent to Trump is a no-show. It fails to address the systemic nature of guardianship abuse and, once again, gives wide swath to the individuals who are truly responsible for the abuse. A black robe and a law degree are apparently still the best protection that money can buy, even against prosecution for the crimes of embezzlement and murder.
Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist and author of the groundbreaking , EXILE. Her articles previously appeared in such mainstream venues as the Los Angeles Times, Orange Coast Magazine, Long Beach Press Telegram, etc. In 2004, Janet “jumped ship” and now exclusively writes for independent media. She is also the author of two collections of poetry—The Hitler Poems and Held Captive. She resides abroad.