Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park Stalls Courts, Exploited Resident Waits for Justice

Grace Watanabe is a 98-year-old Japanese American survivor of the World War II Japanese internment camps. Her time spent working for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services helped her save for her retirement. As she aged, Ms. Watanabe required much more care and moved to Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park. Without any family, she had to make the choice to become increasingly reliant on the Symphony facility and staff, paying them more than $3,600 a month for her care. Shockingly, she was taken for much more. This is the most recent update of an alarming example of a vulnerable nursing home resident being financially exploited by care staff.

  • During Watanabe’s time at Symphony, seven workers wrongfully received more than $700,000 from her.
  • The workers say the money was given to them as gifts.
  • Under the corporate policy, the seven workers at Symphony who took Ms. Watanabe’s money were not supposed to accept gifts from residents — but Symphony’s administration did not actively enforce that rule.
  • In October, Tameeka Wolfe, the nursing home’s business manager, and Christina Wright, its activity director, were arrested and charged with one felony count each of financial exploitation of an elderly person for having allegedly stolen $136,900 and $205,197 respectively from Watanabe.
  • Prosecutors say the women wrote themselves checks from Watanabe’s bank account without her permission.
  • Watanabe, who battles dementia, did not have the cognitive capacity to consent to the checks.
  • Symphony has since fired all of the workers after the fact.

Charles P. Golbert is Grace Watanabe’s court-appointed guardian. His office manages about $100 million in assets belonging to people under guardianship. Over the past ten years, they have recovered more than $50 million stolen from individuals like Watanabe. The elderly lose as much as $36 billion every year through scams and financial exploitation.  Levin & Perconti attorneys Steven Levin and Mike Bonamarte have been aiding and supporting Golbert’s efforts to protect Ms. Watanabe since the beginning.

“We stepped in when this situation was discovered and removed her from Symphony, moving her into another facility with our oversight and took immediate steps to protect her remaining savings,” Golbert recently told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Full justice for Watanabe requires both that the perpetrators be brought to justice criminally and that we recover her money, which we’re seeking through a civil lawsuit we filed against Symphony, its parent corporations, and employees.”

As of today, Symphony continues to stall and delay taking any responsibility for their employees’ wrongdoing. In a hearing on Sept. 20, Judge Aicha MacCarthy found Symphony in contempt of court and ordered them fined every day until they complied with the order to produce four individuals for deposition.

“Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied”

While we continue to work with the Cook County Public Guardian’s office and seek justice for Ms. Watanabe and others like her, we see the limitations and slow process of using the criminal and civil court systems to deal with these cases. But we also have experience in these cases and remain determined to support the financially misguided or exploited. Our consultations are always free, confidential, and handled by one of our skilled and experienced attorneys. Call us toll-free at 1-877-374-1417 or 312-332-2872.

Also read: 10 Ways Banks Can Help Prevent Elder Financial Exploitation