Escambia Senior Out $1 Million; Bill Seeks To Stop Predatory ‘Cockroaches’

March 13, 2015

Now 93, Ernestine Franks has lived in Escambia County all of her life. She and her late husband, Charles, both worked at the Pensacola Naval Air Station — she was in cost accounting and he was a metalsmith. They saved their money and invested it wisely and put their children through the best schools to ensure they would get the best education. Ernestine and Charles’ life was devoted to their boys and always went the extra mile for them.

Douglas said he and his two brothers agreed to a guardian for Ernestine in 2011 because they lived out of town and her health was becoming more of a concern.

But that guardianship has cost his mother $1,000 per day since June 2012.

“It is over $1 million that my mom has spent,” her son Douglas Franks said. “We’re trying to bring awareness so people know what’s going on and how this is a lucrative cottage industry.”

Franks spoke in favor of a measure Thursday in Tallahassee as a Senate panel on Thursday unanimously approved a bill aimed at protecting Florida seniors from predatory “professional guardians,” described by one lawmaker as “cockroaches.”

The bill (SB 1226), filed by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, would expand the Statewide Public Guardianship Office at the Department of Elder Affairs, with an eye to tightening oversight of people who assume control of a senior citizens’ finances.

A recent series by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune found that while Florida has an efficient system of identifying and caring for fragile elders, “tapping their assets is a growth business.” In 2003, there were 23 registered professional guardians on Florida. Today, the number has grown to more than 440.

“Those little cracks in the law are allowing cockroaches to crawl through and take advantage of people who are elderly,” Detert told the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. “Let’s face it. The elderly are today’s invisible people, who are not given much credence when they complain.”

The bill would charge the Department of Elder Affairs with certifying, overseeing and —- if necessary — investigating and disciplining professional guardians who abuse their trust. It would also create a registry of professional guardians in each judicial circuit.

Currently, Detert said, the Department of Elder Affairs is responsible for public guardians, who are assigned to indigent seniors, but there is little to stop unscrupulous “professional guardians” from charging exorbitant rates for services they provide and running through their wards’ assets.

“When you are turning somebody’s entire life over to a guardian, they have access to every asset that you have, and your own family is blocked from participating,” Detert said.

Detert said the courts are so overwhelmed with foreclosures and other backlogged cases that they aren’t able to investigate guardianship expenditures that are unreasonably large.

Her proposal comes as several other lawmakers also are offering measures aimed at curbing abusive guardianships.

by Margine Menzel The News Service of Florida with contribution by


25 Responses to “Escambia Senior Out $1 Million; Bill Seeks To Stop Predatory ‘Cockroaches’”

  1. caring for love one on March 15th, 2015 9:54 pm

    This happens all the time and when you find out its to late. I have an aunt that gave power of attorney to a thief and all she can say is that ah she wouldn’t do that o me. everybody sees it coming but my aunt. oh well theres nothing I can do except wait for the money to come up missing. so sad old people don’t believe stuff you tell them.

  2. well on March 15th, 2015 3:20 pm

    Sorry Patricia,
    A little misunderstood sarcasm.
    My sarcastic view of what this story really says.

  3. 429SCJ on March 15th, 2015 8:58 am

    When you start caring for elderly and/or disabled parents, you learn a lot about your siblings, extended family and community.

    I remember holding my father up in the shower with one arm and scrubbing and rinsing with the other. Hooking my arms under his shoulders and walking him to the bathroom. Getting him to his doctor visits

    There was no help. We made it without them then, and I certainly have no use for them now. If they need help, they had better call to someone who knows them.

  4. Captain Willard on March 14th, 2015 5:53 pm

    The best advice I ever received as a young man (I am an old man, sitll in possession of my money) is. “Never trust your money to a person that makes his money off other people’s money.” Better to have a passbook than risk all of those hours of your life to a thief.

  5. jeeperman on March 14th, 2015 10:49 am

    Three sons and none could see anything going wrong?

  6. Mike on March 14th, 2015 12:43 am

    Your parents raised you. When it’s your turn you don’t sign them over to strangers. Sorry, but that is the bottom line, no excuses. :(

  7. melodies4us on March 13th, 2015 9:27 pm

    ” Oversight” that sounds easier said than done. Could actually absorb even more money from our seniors. I agree with Chris in Molino. Take care of your parents. We owe them EVERYTHING.

  8. BLT on March 13th, 2015 9:08 pm

    @ Chris – it sounds like your wife made a lot of sacrifices to care for your mother and your grandmother.

    You sure seem to know a lot about how everybody else lives.

  9. 429SCJ on March 13th, 2015 8:53 pm

    @Goes around, comes around. Yea until it is brought to a whispering halt.

    You lost me on the rest ?

  10. Chris in Molino on March 13th, 2015 7:40 pm

    That’s why i stay where my parents and their parents are from.
    That’s why i’d rather stay here and make $50k, than move to some unfamiliar place to make $150k. You make sacrifices for

  11. Chris in Molino on March 13th, 2015 7:34 pm

    I agree with Patricia. My mother passed in Hospice. She refused to stay with us. Thankfully, my wife is a nurse and works with Alzheimer’s patients. I didn’t want a stranger caring for my mother, so we both took leave from work and literally lived in Hospice. My wife bathed, wiped, clothed, brushed, and sang to my mother. I have 3 brothers and 3 sisters. There were no visitors. More recently, my grandmother couldn’t care for herself and lived with us for five years. She passed on her 102nd birthday. My wife quit her job to care for her in the last 6 months of life relying solely on my income with two children.
    The woman in question apparently had 3 children which seem to be well to do. The point being, we make sacrifices for family.
    You all would know what im saying if you’d get off the couch, eat at the table, shut the tv off, tell your kids no electronics, and talk to each other about your day, how you feel, etc

  12. greylady on March 13th, 2015 5:23 pm

    This happens all too often. Family members are also notorious for ripping off elderly parents. Elderly individuals also need to address their families’ situations, and consider the move to be near their family. It is not always possible for family to drop everything and move to be near elderly parents. Many times it is much easier for the parent(s) to move to be where family can watch after them. This is something that should be discussed, within the family, before the need arises. If a parent needs a guardian, then more than one family member should be responsible for overseeing that funds are dispensed correctly. Unfortunately, guardians can charge what they choose, and there is very little regulation.

  13. goes around comes around on March 13th, 2015 4:39 pm

    Ditto “429SCJ” and Ditto “Patricia Pettit”
    Another great shame in the United States. Minorities, abused children, abused women, hungry children, the homeless…….I could go on. There are too many selfish people. Ignoring wrongs doesn’t make them go away. If only those who are so self-centered would practice ‘love your neighbor’. But The Man is keeping a daily journal.

  14. Huh? on March 13th, 2015 3:19 pm

    A person doesn’t have to quit their livelihood to move in and take care of their parents, as long as they give due diligence to finding a trustworthy health care provider. It may be hard for some to believe, but there are folks that aren’t in a position to just up and move home.

  15. Marcos Watch on March 13th, 2015 1:24 pm

    Well, if law enforcement won do anything, just dig and dig and see who ends up receiving the money. Go ahead and show up at this door and ask them why. If they tell yo to get of their property, protest outside their house in the public right of way.

  16. Shelli on March 13th, 2015 12:57 pm

    Very well said Patricia!!

  17. jeeperman on March 13th, 2015 11:21 am

    I am confused.
    The THREE sons say they agreed to a “guardian”.
    Did they not read the agreement and just assume the “guardian” would do everything above board?
    Did they not have their names on their mothers billings and accounts so that they could keep an eye on expenses and other legal moves?
    Sorry but out of THREE sons, at least one should have been more aware and responsive to their mothers well being.

  18. fred on March 13th, 2015 11:12 am

    @Patricia – please slow down just a minute, and realize what “well” might be saying. Some people truly don’t have the ability to do what’s necessary to take over their parents’ care. It could be issues with their children, spouse, or personal health situation. You were in a position to be able to take care of your mom or dad, and I have been as well. But there are those who, for good and honorable reasons, cannot. You and I know there is a lot of work involved, with paying bills, doctor visits (seems like they were nearly every day), groceries, medicine, house upkeep, and on and on. I do believe that every family should have a responsible member with the legal ability to control the funds and stop this kind of thing, but that certainly doesn’t excuse thieves who prey on the elderly. You’re right, we are the best advocates for our elderly parents. We also have to realize that not everyone has the ability to do it.

    Be thankful that you were able to do such a loving thing for your parent.

  19. 429SCJ on March 13th, 2015 10:59 am

    An attorney in DELETED stole money, and destroyed family documents and photos from my late Aunt, even threw the deed to the family plot up at Oak Hill in the garbage. I have not forgotten her.

    The funny thing about list is that the longer you live, the longer they get.

  20. clint on March 13th, 2015 10:36 am

    I dont understand how one of her boys didnt catch something before it hit a million.

  21. Patricia Pettit on March 13th, 2015 9:47 am

    You say you no longer have the time or ability to take care of your parent’s, you NEED to find the time. What if they didn’t have the time to raise or take care of you !!! I gave up everything, packed up, retired early and came to Florida to take care of mine. I can’t imagine a child not doing it or at least moving them closer n hiring someone that you can personally keep tab’s on.. There should be a law to protect them but YOU need to protrct them also, their your parents remember. I hate reading that someone doesn’t have the time or the ability ………….

  22. bewildered on March 13th, 2015 9:44 am

    The article states courts do not have the time to investigate unreasonably large guardianship expenditures. Is this guy still out there in good standing preying on another victim(s) as we speak?

  23. well on March 13th, 2015 8:54 am

    Sad when we no longer have the time or ability to take care of our parents who gave so much to us.

  24. Ken on March 13th, 2015 7:08 am

    This is true and sad. Our system ( dept. of elderly Affairs) They are there to collect a pay check . My brother and I made a report over the phone about our dad. They blew us off. Nobody cares. My dad’s care taker took everything ( several thousand dollars) even got herself on the will to get the house and van. She even wrote out the last social security check to her self. We buried our dad out of our own pocket. He was a great and proud man, he would never have left that kind of burdin on anyone. Sorry for rambling on, but no one cares.

  25. 429SCJ on March 13th, 2015 5:14 am

    If someone stole a million dollars from my mother, I would douse them with gasoline, and dance the funky chicken around them with glee in my heart.