When people discuss elder abuse in California, it’s all too common to imagine a dark, shabby nursing homes with inexperienced, underpaid staff and residents who have been shuttered away by relatives who don’t want to spend money on quality care. But it’s important to recognize that elder abuse can happen outside of retirement homes and can affect wealthy, well-loved individuals as well, even celebrities like Stan Lee. San Diego elder abuse lawyer Peter M. Liss explains why the stereotypes don’t paint the whole picture.
What is Elder Abuse
When most people hear about abuse, they assume it involves physical abuse that causes a visible injury or even wrongful death to the victim, but that is just one of the many ways senior citizens are routinely victimized. These individuals may also suffer from sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, isolation, psychological abuse and financial exploitation. While the specific legal criminal charges will vary depending on the specific accusations involved, but the victim must always be over 65 for it to qualify as abuse of the elderly in California.
Recent reports indicate that this problem is becoming increasingly common. In fact, allegations of mistreatment in many SoCal cities has doubled or even tripled since 2005 and The National Adult Protective Services Association says that one in nine elders has been reportedly abused, neglected or exploited in 2019, although they suspect the true numbers may be even higher. Even Stan Lee, the legendary comic book artist, is believed to have been a victim of elder abuse in his final years. While shedding more light on the problem can help protect seniors though, San Diego elder abuse criminal attorneys know that when there are more accusations of abuse, there are also more false accusations as well.
Financial Abuse of Seniors
Financial abuse is actually the most common type of elder abuse and may involve activities ranging from a family member tricking their loved one into giving them money for college all the way to a scam text message or robo call that convinces the senior to directly give money or provide personal information to exploit them financially. Financial abuse is actually twice as common as physical abuse against seniors and experts believe only 1 in 44 cases are actually reported.
Unfortunately, financial abuse is one of the forms of abuse most commonly misreported. It’s all-too-common for a stable-minded senior to give money to or change their will to benefit a nurse or friend. When the family finds out after their loved one has either began suffering from dementia or has even died, they may claim that person exploited their family member for financial gain. If there’s enough circumstantial evidence to prove this is the case, the police and prosecutors may get involved and the care taker or friend may need to defend their rights with the help of an San Diego elder abuse criminal lawyer.
Stan Lee, Elder Abuse Victim?
The most well known example of alleged financial elder abuse involved the famous Stan Lee, the creator of Marvel comics. Shortly before Lee’s death, a restraining order was actually issued against Lee’s business manager and personal adviser, Keya Morgan, who was accused of abusing Lee.
Again, while most people believe abuse of the elderly always involves some kind of physical or mental abuse, Morgan was been accused of taking advantage of the 95 year-old’s impaired hearing, vision and judgment, even preventing Lee’s family and associates from being able to contact him. As elder abuse also includes both neglect and financial exploitation, which is what was at question in this case, Morgan was charged with exploiting Lee. Morgan was arrested after calling 911 to say that burglars were in his home when two detectives and a social worker showed up to check on Lee.
Over the next year, Morgan fought the charges and Stan Lee’s family, eventually having all four charges against him dropped. He is now suing JC Lee, Stan’s daughter, as well as number of other individuals for fraud and defamation.
Fighting Elder Abuse Charges
Morgan eventually beat his abuse charges and he’s not alone. In fact, false accusations of elder abuse are surprisingly common. Patients of caretakers occasionally make up false claims of abuse because they wish for increased independence in their lives or, sometimes because they suffer from mental disabilities such as dementia. In cases involving accusations from family members, false charges often stem from their being upset about seeing the physical or mental decline of a loved one. Occassionally, charges will arise from jealous family members who have discovered their relative gave money or made a loan to their attendant or wrote a caretaker into their will (likely what happened in the Stan Lee case).
These charges vary greatly in their scope and complexity. In some cases, evidence is flimsy and simply revolves around one family member claiming their relative was defrauded financially. Even so, elder financial abuse or fraud charges can be very complex and similar to white collar cases. When you look for a good elder abuse in San Diego attorney, make sure your lawyer has expertise with complicated financial transactions.
While many accusations are based on limited evidence, in some cases, there is ample evidence pointing to abuse and it takes someone highly experienced representing those accused of elder abuse in San Diego to craft a defense based on your specific circumstances. If the case against you is too strong, your attorney may instead work with the prosecution to negotiate a plea bargain that will minimize the potential sentence you could face.
If you have been accused of any form of elder abuse, San Diego attorney Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free consultation at either one of my San Diego County law offices as soon as possible.
Creative Commons Image by Ulrich Joho