Paradise Costs

A victim's daughter fights back against elder abuse

Elder Abuse...An American Pandemic

Elder abuse is any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person. It is generally divided into the following categories: Physical abuse is physical force that results in bodily injury, pain or impairment. It includes assault, battery and inappropriate restraint. Elder abuse can be financial exploitation, neglect, rape, depriving a senior of the companionship of their family, etc....

Internationally acclaimed expert, Bennett Blum, MD, forensic and geriatric psychiatrist, put it this way in the afterword of the book on this website: " Paradise Costs is a tragic, true-life tale. Unfortunately, the behaviors depicted herein are all too common. No one knows how often criminals, "brand new best friends" or family members exploit the elderly.' Elder abuse and exploitation are crimes, if you expect either is happening, call 911 immediately.

Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of child maltreatment including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, and emotional abuse. If you suspect child abuse or exploitation, do something, say something, call Child Protective Services. Child abuse is a crime, call 911 immediately.

Animal abuse is when someone hurts an animal or does not care for an animal responsibly, like not giving a dog or cat food and water, a warm place to sleep, cleanliness, etc. It is against the law to be cruel to or harm animals even your own pets; that includes dog fighting and using bait animals for training. Animal abuse is a crime, call 911 immediately.


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The Victim

In 1977, Mario Masiello, a New York City municipal employee retired to Walterboro, South Carolina with his wife, Elizabeth. He thought of the area as "paradise."

In 1986, Mario's only son, a decorated Vietnam vet passed away from service related illness. Mario was devastated by the loss and his health began to decline. He developed Alzheimer's, his hearing diminished further necessitating hearing aids, he was diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes and high blood pressure.

Mario declined further after his wife, his childhood sweetheart, who battled emphysema for years died in 1999. Elizabeth had hired an aide for Mario prior to her passing but the stress impacted him and his Alzheimer's progressed as indicated by his medical records below.

Several neighbors and strangers entered Mario's life, despite vigorous opposition from his family, who retained legal counsel. Meddling and unwanted intervention resulted in insufficient medical care after long term relationships with Mario’s established doctors was severed by interference from the above. Also, since he was an insulin dependent diabetic, poor diet and alcohol consumption encouraged by his “friends” was contraindicated with his medications and while that was explained to the above, they ignored medical advice.

Mario had a stroke in early 2001 requiring all sustenance be provided through a surgically inserted stomach tube; all meals and fluids were subsequently given by his health care aide and neighbors. All took an unusually intense and robust interest in Mario’s condition…not to mention his assets. While his family still lived in NY, they were present despite interference from interlopers who were intrusive and appeared to have ulterior motives.

A witness reported that a “homeless woman” previously brought into Mario’s home by the above to be another “aide” subsequently pressured him into marrying her (which would entitle her to a widow’s inheritance) or she’d leave him. Threat of desertion is a typical elder abuse and exploitation tactic advises forensic and geriatric psychiatrist, Bennett Blum, MD, whose pioneering and acclaimed work appears in Paradise Costs.

The family had deep suspicions and notified Adult Protective Services, the Walterboro sheriff, physicians, social workers and attorneys as well as the Probate Court after fraudulent documents were registered with the Court.

After Mario's death in August 2001, other suspicious and frightening factors became apparent.



The NY Post reported on December 18, 2005 in the article below, re: Mario, "Meanwhile, [Brenda] Crosby, 37, and Walterboro resident Stephanie Ospitale, 57, had been helping to care for Mario and continued doing so up until he died. 'We had no idea he had any money. He was just a poor old man', Crosby told the The Post."

The assets of a "poor old man"

NY Post reporter: "You have a movie here...."

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Paradise Costs - A Victim's Daughter Fights Back Against Elder Abuse

by Irene A. Masiello, afterword by Bennett Blum, MD

Book Excerpt:
by Irene A. Masiello

"Never in my wildest imagination could I have fathomed that my Dad's birth data would one day be used as an identification number in a forensic toxicology lab five years after his death. However, after his life ended under suspicious circumstances, I would be compelled to conduct my own investigation to determine whether my father was a victim of some type of conspiracy."

"As a family, we needed to find healing and closure. The only way to come to terms with Dad's demise would be to eliminate and/or investigate the possibility of foul play...."

Please note: the forensic toxicology tests were recommended under the guidance and advice of experts in their fields, i.e. a federal agent and a medical expert.

Mario passed away on August 25, 2001. His family stopped by the sheriff’s later that week to voice their concerns before departing for NYC early in September. A deputy assured them it would be looked into but no communication ever came from that office. The family returned to New York City and shortly after their arrival home, the World Trade Center tumbled. Experts immediately advised the family not to send specimens to any forensic lab at that time due to the catastrophic events of 9/11.

The consulting physician, qualified to be an expert witness, stated, "Millions of samples of DNA, etc, will be pouring into forensic labs across the world. Wait a few years; if the samples get lost, they’re not replaceable.”

Meanwhile, legal matters in South Carolina proceeded. Mario’s Will had been re-written by a Walterboro attorney representing one of the people who eventually spoke to the NY Post. The family was disinherited and the interlopers became the new heirs to Mario’s house, car, truck and all items depicted on this site. The dining room set was imported from China especially for Mario, and made of solid, hand-carved rosewood. It was appraised in the mid-1980s at $28,000.

The NY Post later quoted one person as saying, “We didn’t know he had any money. He was just a poor old man….”

Additionally, the graves of Mario, his wife and son remain in possession of interlopers rather than family members. The family still hopes to exhume Mario’s body so that various claims can be legally verified and the truth can be ascertained.

Finally, after waiting years, as advised by the medical expert, the family, haunted and hungering for answers and closure, sent Mario’s hair specimen to another expert…a forensic toxicologist. He, the Director of Toxicology at Ohio State University, College of Medicine in Columbus, Ohio, performed the testing.

Hair retains its scientific integrity from ancient to modern times and forensic toxicology is extremely accurate. Expert testing on Mario’s hair was performed twice, a decision made by the toxicologist, to be sure that the stunning results were accurate.

The results demonstrated a cocaine metabolite (meaning organically processed and/or digested cocaine), high potent Ecstasy (both “party drugs”) and Mario’s medically prescribed anti-psychotic drug were identified on the forensic toxicology report as being present in his hair.

And tragically, this story and stories like it are more common than most can imagine. Elder abuse and exploitation is an American pandemic with 1-in-6 seniors experiencing some type of abuse and/or exploitation. Experts agree this number is estimated to be inaccurate and is too low.


Excerpt from the Afterword:
by Bennett Blum, MD

Paradise Costs is a tragic, true-life tale. Unfortunately, the behaviors depicted herein are all too common. No one knows how often criminals, "brand new best friends" or family members exploit the elderly. And this was one of the questions considered at a 2005 conference attended by experts on elder financial abuse from around the U.S. Their working conclusion was that 1 out of 6 elderly would be victims.

Money has always been associated with the worst of human behavior. Elder financial abuse is no exception. Some of the people taking assets from the elderly have been tied to gang violence, prostitution and drug trafficking. Their elderly victims are often subjected to physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, sexual abuse and murder. As one long-time investigator of elder financial abuse says, "Once the money is gone, all that is left is a witness."

Forensic Toxicology



toxicology logo


999 Bethel Road

Columbus, OH 43214

614-459-2307 Ph. 614-459-2409 Fx

Laboratory Results

Client Name:

Irene. A Masiello





Patient Name:

Masiello, Mario





Pt. ID#:






Referr Physician






Date Collected:


Time Collected:




Date Received:


Time Received:




Date Reported:


Time Reported:




Specimen Type:














Reference Range

Substance Identification

+Methoxyphenamine (Similar effect as



MDA or Ecstasy, but more potent)



+Risperidol (Anti-psychotic)



+Methylecgonine (Secondary Cocaine






Performed by Gas Chromatograph



Mass Spectrometry


Medical Records

Below are excerpts from medical records of Mario Masiello's as noted by four different physicians; medical records are legal documents.

September 24, 1996 - a Charleston, South Carolina internist notated: "[Mario’s] wife is concerned about his short term memory. She and her daughter have noticed a significant change over the last six months to one year and asked me to do some formal testing. Mario agreed to this and I was surprised at the findings. He could not remember three objects even for one minute - could not remember his birth date and is having considerable problems with anomia [definition: lacking a capacity to understand or use spoken or written language]. His wife described an incident where their dog brought home a dead raccoon and told Mario on several occasions that it was a raccoon, he told me that he knew exactly what the animal was but he couldn’t remember the name. When we told him it was a raccoon, he said, ‘yeah, that’s it,’ but then one minute later couldn’t remember the name of the animal. I was quite surprised at how bad his short term memory was and he even had some difficulty with his long term memory that is, remembering what city he was born in. At first, he said it was NYC, but then when he was told by his wife that was not true, he had to think for a while and then remembered that, in fact, he had been born in Philadelphia…."

May 29, 1997 - the same Charleston internist noted: "Mr. Masiello comes with his daughter from New York and his wife for re-evaluation of his diabetes and dementia…I think his short term memory is significantly impaired. On previous exams he has been unable to remember three objects even immediately after I mentioned them and today he could not remember his home address…his wife and daughter admit that he does lose things frequently and is becoming more agitated and at times somewhat hostile. I spent about 20 minutes counseling him and asked him if he would please keep an initial appointment with [another physician’s name] in the Memory Disorders Clinic. [Mario] has adamantly refused despite my strong recommendation."

July 27, 1998 – a Walterboro internist noted: "I met with the patient’s wife and daughter for about a 30 minute family conference during which time we discussed issues related to his progressive dementia, including assigning legal guardianship or power of attorney to his daughter, limiting his financial risk and taking away his car keys so that he does not continue to drive."

September 28, 1998 – a Walterboro internist noted: "[Mr. Masiello] prior to the office visit left the office to smoke. Patient had to be escorted/directed back into the office by the staff. Patient would have problems concentrating and answering questions."

September 8, 1999 – a Walterboro physician wrote to a town judge: "RE: MARIO MASIELLO, Dear Judge, The above individual is a patient of mine. Due to his medical condition and his cognitive function, I do not believe that he can safely operate a motor vehicle. I recommend that’s his driver’s license be revoked."

September 24, 1999 – Director of a medical department at the local hospital noted in a letter to the South Carolina Highway Department:
"Mr. Mario Masiello was evaluated by me on September 21st, 1999. Due to his medical condition, I do not believe he can safely operate a motor vehicle and I recommend his driver's license be revoked."

October 6, 1999 – an independent psychiatric consultation by a medical doctor results in involuntary commitment of Mario Masiello.

October 11, 1999 – a Walterboro internist noted: "I met for about 15 minutes with [Mario's] daughter Irene to review recent developments. [Mario] has been psychologically unstable since his wife died about a month ago. Previous he had moderately severe Alzheimer’s dementia with very short-term memory. His daughter has been increasingly concerned about his safety especially because he has access to a car and firearms. She shared her concerns with Dr. [psychiatrist] at Mental Health, and [Mario] underwent commitment and is currently in Charter Hospital. Given the information received from her and my past experience with Mr. Masiello, I have no doubt that he is a threat to others and himself…he may need assisted living. I would consider him to be at high risk for suicide as well as high risk for motor vehicle accidents and firearm accidents."

November 24, 1999 – a Walterboro internist noted: "The patient home and has a paid 24-hour caregiver because of his Alzheimer's disease."


The author, Irene A. Masiello, is a New York City-based magazine columnist writing on various topics, particularly, spiritual development, personal empowerment, self-actualization, adjunct wellness modalities, and the health advantages of owning a pet. Irene's been a member of the faculty at the City University of New York, the largest and most diverse urban university system in the world.

She was chosen by Baby Boomer TV to be their elder care expert and she is a frequent guest on radio and TV. She has been a consultant to Court TV and the Colombian Lawyer's Association of the Nassau County Bar Association on Long Island. Additionally, she is a certified: adult educator, stress management consultant and holistic counselor, an elder, child and animal advocate and member of the Elder Justice Coalition.



Afterword by Bennett Blum, M.D. Dr. Blum is an internationally acclaimed physician specializing in both forensic and geriatric psychiatry. He is an expert on the evaluation of undue influence including manipulation tactics, coercion and psychological conditions used by offenders to abuse and exploit others. His pioneering assessment techniques in the areas of undue influence, mental capacity and competency are taught throughout much of the Western Hemisphere.

His work has been published by the National College of Probate Judges, State Bar Associations and in major medical textbooks including sections on elder abuse and undo influence, including editions 7th, 8th & 9th editions of Kaplan's and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry.

Dr. Blum has consulted on hundreds of legal cases throughout the United States including the criminal trials of Susan Smith, Andrea Yates and Theresa Ramirez as well as the civil litigation case of O.J. Simpson. Additionally, Dr. Blum is co-author of the world famous work, Suicide-by-Cop. Reach him at

About Paradise Costs

John Bradshaw, PBS series host: "Bradshaw on the Family," NY Times best selling author: "Paradise Costs-A Victim's Daughter Fights Back against Elder Abuse" is a compelling journey through the scripts and tapes of the past into a dysfunctional family dynamic to which many of us can relate. More than a story of personal tragedy and triumph, this is a call to concrete action in support of the Elder Justice Act. Irene Masiello's reality writing creates a simple and effective way to take a pro-active stance against elder abuse and exploitation." John Bradshaw is author of Bradshaw On: The Family, Healing the Shame that Binds You, Homecoming, Creating Love.


Larry Dossey, MD: "We owe our elders everything; they deserve our compassion, love, protection, and best of care. Irene Masiello's voice is a clarion call to provide them what they need – unconditionally, and with gratitude." Larry Dossey, MD, is one of the world’s foremost experts on prayer research and author of: The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things, Recovering the Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Search, Healing Words: the Power of Words and Practice of Medicine, The Power of Premonitions-How Knowing the Future Can Shape Our Lives.


Jacqueline Marcell:Paradise Costs is a riveting wake-up call for anyone faced with caring for elderly loved ones including 78 million ‘at risk’ Baby Boomers. It's a gripping true story told through the eyes of a courageous daughter, who demonstrates how ordinary circumstances can turn into an extraordinary chain of events—leading to unthinkable crimes. Through this compelling and cautionary page-turner, Irene Masiello encounters unforeseen issues and obstacles during her remarkable effort to save her beloved father, one of too many seniors who fall between the cracks of our outdated and failed system.” Jacqueline Marcell, author: Elder Rage and host of Coping with Care-giving radio show.



In 2009, Paradise Costs was honored to be invited & included in the National Clearinghouse on Abuse & Neglect of the Elderly (CANE), the largest .gov site in the world dedicated to data-basing professional, academic & scholarly works on elder abuse & exploitation.


Dedicated to the loving memory of:

Elizabeth, Mario & Martin M. Masiello, Jr.

with deep appreciation for unwavering support, wisdom & love of:

Edward L. Shifter


Leonard A. Peduto

with much love, deep faith and everlasting joy

for our beautiful tomorrow...

Kayla Grace

contact Us at:


order a downloadable book


We gratefully acknowledge the love and assistance of so many especially the physicians and the dedicated and caring social workers of Walterboro, South Carolina who inspired us to move forward despite unimaginable pain and write this book. Also, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the random acts of selfless kindness from total strangers from around the country and the world and, especially, from the New York Craig's List who dazzled us with generosity and brilliance.

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