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  1. #1
    backslider Array K-rod's Avatar
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    talk about "political" and "correct" ...

    B.C. public guardian accused of abusing rights

    Last months of elderly woman's life made miserable by agency: friends
    Last Updated: Thursday, July 9, 2009 | 4:01 AM ET Comments55Recommend81.
    By Amanda Stutt, special to CBC News
    Sheila Scholnick's house in Vancouver's Dunbar area. (Amanda Stutt/CBC News)
    When Winifred Hall entered her friend Sheila Scholnick's home in Vancouver's west side after she was locked out, the place looked as though there had been a burglary.

    "The house had been ransacked," the elderly B.C. woman told CBC News, her voice shaking.

    A Jewish altar lay overturned in the living room of the Dunbar area home, with its candles and Torah lying on the floor. Upstairs in the bedroom, dresser drawers had been emptied and underwear was scattered on the bed.

    The culprits: British Columbia's Public Guardian and Trustee, a provincial agency set up to protect the financial and legal affairs of those declared mentally incapable of handling it themselves.

    What is the public guardian?
    Each province and territory has a public guardian.

    Their job is to protect society's most vulnerable, but they are intended to be a service of last resort — only becoming involved when a person is deemed incapable and no other solution is available. The agency can make decisions on the person's behalf on a temporary basis, such as:

    •maintaining or selling property.
    •filing tax returns.
    •paying bills.
    •receiving and depositing income.
    Sometimes such agencies will gain control of more personal matters such as health care, place of residence, nutrition, hygiene and clothing.

    Public guardians typically take over responsibilities on behalf of those found incapable when there are no others — such as a relative — available, capable and willing to take over the affairs.
    While the public guardian is supposed to protect society's most vulnerable citizens, Hall and several others are describing it as a ruthless organization abusing the rights of the very people it claims to protect.

    It was late 2007 when Hall came home to padlocks on the door of the Blenheim Street house where she had lived with the owner and her late friend, Sheila Scholnick, for the past two years. The public guardian allowed her briefly back into the building to retrieve her belongings, but that was all.

    "I became like a hobo. I had nowhere to go," said Hall, who contends her property also went missing while she was locked out, including her British passport, some cash and personal files.

    Hall and another friend of Scholnick, Michaelyna Burianyk, say the public guardian made Scholnick's last months of life miserable, not even allowing Scholnick back in the house to celebrate her 80th birthday. Scholnick died last fall.

    "At that point, she said 'This is going to kill me.' And she said, 'This, this is so wrong,'" says Burianyk.

    Agency won't explain
    B.C. Public Guardian and Trustee Jay Chalke said ransacking a house would be "ridiculous and unacceptable." He wouldn't comment about the specific case but said that the agency typically does an exhaustive search of a premise when they take control of a person's financial affairs.

    "You'd be amazed at the places we find wills, stock certificates, and money — hidden between the pages of a book or underneath carpets. And so we do have to conduct a thorough search," said Chalke.

    Winifred Hall, left, and Sheila Scholnick, right, lived together for several years in Scholnick's B.C. home. (Amanda Stutt/CBC News)
    "Our written policy is that our investigators leave the property at least as good as they found it."

    But lawyer John Lakes, who has dealt extensively with the public guardian, says poor judgments are sometimes the result of overworked, disengaged caseworkers, as well as the result of a cumbersome bureaucracy.

    "Well, unfortunately — just like a lawyer — the PGT is trained to be negative," said Lakes.

    "You're dealing with a big bureaucracy. You're dealing with a turnover of people. Part of the problem is what they'll do is take sides too early."

    For about six months before being turfed from the home, Hall had Scholnick's enduring power of attorney after Scholnick was admitted to a nursing home following a fall in May 2007.

    With that enduring power of attorney, she had the ability to act in her friend's name even when Scholnick lost decision-making capacity, but that right was nullified by the public guardian when it assumed control of the elderly woman's finances.

    In fact, it was Hall who called the public guardian, concerned that Scholnick was being swindled by a man who had begun visiting Scholnick at the nursing home. She alleges the man manipulated Scholnick into withdrawing money from her debit account to give to him.

    'All-or-nothing' legislation
    Hall hoped the agency would freeze Scholnick's account to keep it from happening again. But instead, the Public Guardian took control of Scholnick's affairs, emptying all but $50 out of her accounts and informing Hall that her power of attorney had been revoked.

    "It should be noted that you did not take measures to protect the finances of Mrs. Scholnick in enacting your role as power of attorney and instead sought remedy by calling our office," Public Guardian regional manager Colleen Koch wrote in a letter to Hall.

    Hall began a letter writing campaign to the public guardian, the province's attorney general and the ombudsman. What she found was that current laws give the public guardian complete control over a person's legal and financial affairs.

    Under the Patients Property Act, the agency has the power to enact statutory guardianship without any court process.

    Laura Watts, the Centre for Elder Law's national director, says the public guardian should only step in when necessary — when there is no default power of attorney and no willing or capable family member to assume control.

    She adds that abuse of powers of attorney is rampant, but often those deemed incapable of managing their affairs get caught in what Watts refers to as the "hammer of all-or-nothing" legislation.

    "It's like flipping a switch — a person's either got all [of their] rights or none."

    There's no way to know how many complaints like Hall's have been lodged against the public guardian since freedom of information requests were denied due to privacy concerns.

    The agency publishes audited financial statements and details of how it invests clients' assets, but won't give specific details of how money is spent to family members.

    Family loses out
    Even when the family is still in the picture, the public guardian has been accused of unfairly taking control over the affairs of its elderly clients.

    When Rose Landers was deemed incapable of managing her own affairs due to dementia and was placed in a nursing home, she lost control of her finances to the public guardian in October 2008 following a probe into allegations of financial abuse.

    That probe was sparked by a relative who complained to the public guardian about the sale of one of Landers's properties. Some of the proceeds of the sale were given to family members, including her granddaughter, Marion Landers.

    Rose Landers had hoped to pass on her money to her granddaughter Marion Landers, shown here with her sons Solomon and Bilal. (Amanda Stutt/CBC News)
    Shortly after, the agency took over joint investments and emptied a bank account containing about $100,000 that the 99-year-old shared with Marion.

    The two also jointly own three properties, and those are also under threat. In mid-May 2009, the public guardian informed Marion's lawyer that they are now investigating the possibility of challenging her ownership on all three shared properties.

    "This is ridiculous. I don't understand how they can do this," said Marion. "They are trying to force me into a position where … one of the properties goes into foreclosure."

    Marion and her two children, Solomon and Bilal, live in one of the houses and she says she couldn't even afford to rent an apartment on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside if she was forced out.

    In the end, the agency told Marion Landers that they'd found no evidence of abuse. But the agency still hasn't returned the money, with the exception of about $4,000.

    "It's almost like gangsterism. Their behaviour is very gangster like," said Marion.

  2. #2
    Registered User Array
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    In your dreams
    That is an unbelievable story. Where there is no accountability but absolute power, then corruption follows naturally......

  3. #3
    That new bike smell Array mondocycle's Avatar
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    North Vancouver fraudster Tickell sentenced to six years in jail

    By David Baines, Vancouver Sun columnistJune 1, 2009

    * Story
    * Photos ( 1 )

    Bryan Tickell at the North Vancouver courthouse last week.

    Bryan Tickell at the North Vancouver courthouse last week.
    Photograph by: Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun files

    A North Vancouver man who admitted he falsified his application to become a case worker at the B.C. Public Guardian & Trustee’s Office then defrauded two elderly clients who were incapable of looking after their own affairs, has been sentenced to six years in jail.

    Dressed in a charcoal suit and bright-coloured tie, Bryan Tickell said nothing as a flak-jacketed sheriff at North Vancouver Provincial Court snapped handcuffs on his wrists and led him through a steel door to jail on Monday.

    The warm, sunny weather outside contrasted with the cold, bleak scene inside the courtroom, made bleaker by Judge Tony Dohm’s unqualified condemnation of Tickell and his crimes.

    “Mr. Tickell’s culpability is at the highest level. There is nothing to mitigate his crimes,” the judge said flatly.

    Tickell, 30, had earlier pleaded guilty to three charges:

    • Defrauding the Public Guardian’s office by falsifying his job application. Evidence was that he provided phoney job references and falsely claimed he had two university degrees.

    • Defrauding a client, Phyllis Lowdell, who had been deemed mentally incompetent, by acquiring a Maple Ridge property that she owned for “$1 plus love and affection,” then selling it for $1 million.

    • Defrauding another elderly client, Boris Derlago, who was in similarly dependent circumstances, by naming himself a 20-per-cent beneficiary of his $1.3-million estate. In so doing, he eliminated or reduced the entitlement of other beneficiaries, including some charities.

    Tickell resigned from his job on July 27, 2007. Three days later, he transferred the Lowdell property into his name and might have made a clean getaway except that Derlago died the same day. That prompted another case worker to review the file and uncover the fraud.

    Proceeds from the property fraud were quickly recovered, and the Derlago will was annulled before Tickell could reap any benefits, but the Public Guardian’s office spent more than $1 million in legal and forensic accounting fees to clean up the mess and conduct an overall risk assessment.

    Judge Dohm noted that Tickell tried to minimize his culpability and convince the court that his offences were crimes of opportunity, rather than pre-planned events.

    “He would have the court believe this was a momentary aberration. It was not.”

    The judge said it was clear that Tickell had been planning to commit fraud for some time. Several years earlier, he had persuaded Carleton University to re-issue in his name a degree obtained by another student. Then he made the false job application and swore under oath that all the representations he had made were true, thereby “heaping deceit upon deceit.”

    Tickell also studied B.C. laws to help him execute his frauds, and started making plans to defraud Lowdell the day after she was assigned to him as a client. Then he created a false identification to facilitate the property transfer.

    “He is profoundly dishonest and manipulative,” the judge said.

    Dohm said that although Tickell tendered an apology, “his remorse appears to be almost exclusively self-centred” and “does not genuinely include his victims.” He noted that Tickell admitted to his boss, Jay Chalke, head of the Public Guardian’s office, that he had committed other frauds, but refused to identify them.

    Dohm said a clinical psychologist reported that Tickell “enjoyed talking about his crimes” and “enjoyed the psychological challenge of succeeding in these illegal pursuits.”

    He said some white-collar offenders are motivated by addiction, or have been abused as children. Others have cooperated and provided restitution, and are not likely to reoffend.

    “Mr. Tickell does not have any of these circumstances to assist him. He falls into the category of offender solely motivated by avarice,” he said.

    Crown prosecutor Ian Hay had not recommended a specific sentence, other than to say that five years would be inadequate. Defence lawyer Scott Wright had asked for a two-year sentence, followed by three years of probation.

    At Hay’s request, the judge ordered Tickell to provide a DNA sample, which will make it easier to identify him if he commits any crimes in future.

    © Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
    Last edited by mondocycle; 07-09-2009 at 11:32 AM. Reason: add link
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  4. #4
    Will wheelie 4 boobs! Array Jave's Avatar
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    I've had a grandparent who passed recently, and even though they had a will, it was ridiculously difficult for my parents to sort out. So much red tape and legal fees. My parents came to the conclusion that it would be a million times easier and simpler to just pass off everything you own before you kick the bucket and skip the whole will thing.
    Danger 4 dinner... Sex 4 breakfast...

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