Thursday, July 12, 2007

Outraged , Another Wonders How an Elderly Couple Could Lose Their Home so Easily

SAN DIEGO -- A local woman broke no laws, but she was in a position where she could have stopped a terrible scam against an elderly couple. The couple’s family said it killed the husband, Pat Torano, and devastated his widow, Dorothy.

Authorities considered it one of the worst cases of elder abuse they have ever seen in San Diego County.

It began one year ago when the Toranos let down their guard.

The Toranos owned a home for 40 years, until a pair of scheming caretakers entered their lives and stole everything, including the house.

Steve Carver of the District Attorney’s Office said, “They were blind or near blind, and had no understanding of even where they were living.”

The thieves took full advantage of older, blind victims.

Gina Trevino and Robert Holman used the Torano’s good name to open more than 30 credit card accounts, going on a $50,000 shopping spree.

The pair bought a Jeep, stayed in hotels and wined and dined. They even spent $500 watching porno movies on cable, according to authorities.

However, their greed did not stop there. The pair took the Toranos to a notary at a Postal Annex in Carlsbad, where they forced the elderly couple to sign away their home.

All it took were a few strokes of a pen and stamp from a notary.

Dorothy Torano said, “Sometimes memories, well, they make me cry.”

She can’t remember much because she has Alzheimer’s disease. Dorothy Torano also does not remember being dumped at a motel after her home was stolen. She only knows her husband is gone and so is her home.

“We used to go here, we used to go there. We can’t do it anymore. It makes me said,” said Torano.

Torano’s daughter, Kim Collins, said, “It’s absolute financial rape, with all the emotional devastation that goes along with it.”

Collins is fighting for a law to protect elderly people like her parents. Outraged, she wonders how an elderly couple could lose their home so easily.

Paul Greenwood runs the District Attorney’s Office Elder Abuse Unit, and said notaries should be required to report suspicious activity.

“This would not only raise awareness, it would protect the elderly from being pressured into signing documents that they don’t understand,” said Greenwood.
Lorelei Mitchell, the notary who witnessed the Torano transaction where Trevino had Dorothy Torano sign away her home, said she “did not have to answer” when asked why she notarized the transaction.

10 News’ Marti Emerald asked Mitchell, “She brings in an elderly women who doesn’t know where she is, can’t sign her own name and you put your stamp on it?”
Mitchell replied, “No comment.”

Notaries have operated under the radar, but many hope the Torano’s story will change things.
10 News is in talks with the Secretary of State’s office -- where they regulate notaries -- as well as local legislators to require notaries to report suspected cases of elder abuse.
Trevino and Holman are both in prison, with Trevino sentenced to eight years, Holman serving two years.

A court returned the Torano’s home to the family just in time to sell it in order to support Dorothy Torano in a retirement home.


This story is really sad and one can not help but feel for the victims and the circumstances that allowed this to happen , on the front line of this fight against abuse are notaries , without their cooperation a lot of cases of elder financial abuse would be stopped dead in their tracks.

With Clara suffering from Dementia and Alzheimer’s, clearly disoriented ( see report from Department of Elder Affairs here >> ) How in the world did a public notary , legalize the transfer of Clara's properties, a new Power of Attorney (POA) , and numerous other financial planning documents to be used for the agents' benefit during a period of time during which Clara was hospitalized 5 times, moves in and out of home as many times across 4 separate counties and kept isolated, drugged and confused ?

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