California Bar Journal
CBJ - May 2010 #03.
Elders are targeted for fraud and financial abuse, say panelists
The California LawyerMay 2010Elders are targeted for fraud and financial abuse, say panelistsBy Diane CurtisStaff WriterSee related articles:
* Elder Abuse - a silent crime
* How elders can avoid scams
It's a scenario heard frequently by elder abuse experts. The son (or daughter) who has been given power of attorney starts cutting back on his mother's expenditures even though she has enough money to continue living as she had been. He decides where she lives and who she sees. He sells some of her favorite possessions. And as her on-hand cash declines, his swells. At the same time, new codicils to her will reduce the amount she had originally left to others and increase the amount for him.
Although familiar to prosecutors, Adult Protective Services officials and others involved with seniors, such cases illustrating the rising crime of financial elder abuse rarely make front-page headlines around the world. One recent case was different because the centenarian mother was socialite Brooke Astor, the grande dame New York philanthropist said to be worth almost $200 million and whose friends included such international movers and shakers as Barbara Walters, Henry Kissinger, the Oscar de la Rentas and David Rockefeller.
Unintentionally, says her grandson Philip Marshall, Brooke Astor's greatest legacy may be as someone who raised awareness of elder abuse. Last October, when he was 85 years old, Astor's son (and Philip's father), Anthony Marshall, was convicted on 14 of 16 charges that included grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, forgery, scheming to defraud, falsifying business records, offering a false instrument for filing and conspiracy. He was sentenced to one to three years in prison, and the case is on appeal.
Astor died in 2007 at age 105. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2000, and in 2002 Philip Marshall, a professor of architectural preservation in Rhode Island, became concerned that his father might be taking advantage of Astor's frail, confused state. The first hint was the missing $10 million painting, "Flags, Fifth Avenue" by artist Childe Hassam, which Astor had initially promised to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Anthony Marshall sold the painting, reportedly with...