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04/23/2013

News / Alabama bill to stiffen penalties for power of attorney abuse

The House of Representatives of Alabama is considering a bill that would increase penalties for financially abusing senior citizens by exploiting one’s power of attorney, as well as by other means. The bill has already been approved by the state’s Senate and is poised to pass the House.

The bill will improve the definition of financial exploitation and other senior-citizen related crimes, and will make the penalties for abusing and exploiting senior citizens harsher, State Senator Cam Ward noted.

“It’s not a Republican bill, it’s not a Democrat bill, it’s an Alabama seniors bill,” Ward, a Republican, was quoted by Shelby County Reporter as saying. “It will probably get final passage in the next week and a half.”

Ward and other advocates, including Assistant Alabama Attorney General John Kachelman, AARP acting President Connie Walden, Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens and dozens of Alabaster seniors, promoted the initiative during a press conference at the Alabaster Senior Center. With only eight days left in the current legislative session, Ward encouraged supporters to call on their senators and representatives to hasten the passage of the bill.

“There is no real opposition,” Ward noted. “The real deal is that the Legislature knows it’s out there and people care about it.”

Assistant Alabama Attorney General John Kachelman came to support stiffer penalties for power of attorney abusers after hearing about a 2010 case in which a man from the city of Tallassee stole $2.5 million from a 98-year old woman struck by Alzheimer’s disease.

Tallassee resident Joe Giddens was able to steal such a hefty sum of money because he held power of attorney over Virginia Freck’s assets. Giddens eventually pleaded guilty to financial exploitation in the civil lawsuit brought against him, and was sentenced to ten years in prison.

“He purchased vehicles for his girlfriends, houses, a business that he ran into the ground,” Kachelman noted during a press conference at the Alabaster Senior Center. “It is sad. Ten years is not enough for what he had done.”

To become law, the bill would have to get approved by the Alabama House of Representatives and would also need to receive the signature of Governor Robert J. Bentley.


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