Investigation into Guardianship Abuse

(Updated, air date for this report, TBD.) 

Problems are being reported nationwide. 

 A guardian is appointed by the court to "guard" finances and make care decisions for an elderly person who has nobody else to help. Most people think once the court steps in, the person is protected, and safe. 

But instead of helping, the guardian drains the person's bank account. What's worse, the court gives its stamp of approval. How could this be happening? 

 According to GAO investigators, and investigators from the office of Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), it's the result of unscrupulous actors; piecemeal regulations from state-to-state; and poor oversight. 

Google "Guardianship Abuse" and you'll find some of the horror stories. There are many, from Florida to California. We can assume that many court-appointed guardians do their difficult jobs selflessly and with great ethics. But the evidence indicates some of them don't.

Take the case of a former cab driver who befriended an 87-year old customers with Alzheimer's. The cab driver was also a convicted bank robber. Somehow, he was granted guardianship of the elderly man. He embezzled more than $640,000. He used some of it to pay for exotic dancers and a new Humvee. He's now in prison. The money's gone forever.

Other times, there's no crime involved. No prosecution. But money is quickly, quite legally, drained from an elderly person's account until not a penny is left. 

You may conclude the guardian wasn't looking out for anybody but himself. 

Watch our special investigation tonight on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.

  • Sharyl Attkisson
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    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.