"Paradise Costs is a tragic, true-life tale...
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."
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 were 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 who needed care and companionship', Crosby told the The Post."
New Book Exposes Elder Abuse in America
Driven by grim statistics from national elder advocacy groups stating there may be more than 25 million cases of elder exploitation a year in America, a victim's daughter offers her father's suspicious forensic report to readers to exemplify a terrifying reality. Created in a work-book format with pre-written reality writing letters as tear-outs, Paradise Costs—A Victim's Daughter Fights Back Against Elder Abuse, is a frightening personal narrative calling attention to the Elder Justice Act now before both Houses of Congress.
New York (PRWEB) November 14, 2007 — Deception, corruption, exploitation and manipulation collide in Paradise Costs: A Victim's Daughter Fights Back Against Elder Abuse, the heart-wrenching story of an infirm, 80-year-old man with Alzheimer's who was taken from his family, stripped of his assets and exploited despite the pleas of his next of kin.
What makes this story even more compelling? It's not fiction.
Mario Masiello, a hearing-impaired, honorably discharged, World War II veteran retired from the New York City Transit Authority and relocated to the quaint town of Walterboro, South Carolina to realize his life-long dream of utopian living. Twenty years later, his blissful life was ravaged by the death of his wife and by several illnesses including diabetes, Alzheimer's and depression. Paradise Costs tells the chilling true story of the last years of his life when he was "grandpa-napped" from his family by neighbors and "friends."
"I never thought this type of betrayal and brutality could happen in my family," says Irene A. Masiello, Paradise Costs author and Mario's daughter. "My experience has made me realize how little people know about the deadly American pandemic that is elder abuse."
The American Psychological Association estimates that approximately 2.1 million senior citizens are victims of physical and psychological neglect and abuse every year. However, the numbers are grossly misleading for too many cases go unreported while most people are unaware or under-informed of elder abuse's broader definitions.
In this gripping personal narrative the author gives a voice to countless victims who suffer and die in silence while the staggering issues paint a gruesome picture. Driven by more grim statistics from national elder advocacy groups stating there may be an additional 25 million cases of elder exploitation, Irene shares her family's story. In a bold stance, she drives home the pervasiveness of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation by offering her father's suspicious forensic report to readers to exemplify a terrifying reality. Even more important, she offers a viable solution to the problem that allows every American to be pro-active in helping to eradicate this social ill.
"As difficult as the aftermath of this tragedy has been, I am determined not to let my father's death be in vain," says Irene. "My goal now is to take my story to the nation and raise awareness of this deplorable social ill that's plaguing America."
Irene's objective is to provide a voice to the millions of victims that fall through the cracks every year. As readers accompany the Masiello family along their horrific journey they can't help but recognize and call for legislation that could prevent their own families from being victimized by this fast-growing phenomenon. "It's robbing our seniors of their dignity and right to life while causing pain and hardship for their loved ones."
"I'm urging participation via our interactive book to lobby legislators to pass the Elder Justice Act [EJA] now on the floor of both Houses of Congress," says the author. "Hopefully, others will be spared the suffering my father was forced to endure and their families will not have to look on helplessly in horror as mine did."
Masiello is urging national reform addressing elder issues and continued support to implement, amend and enforce the EJA. A portion of her proceeds from her book will be donated to a non-profit organization supporting that cause.
Welcome to what was once a beautiful waterfront family home, one rich in tradition with a beautiful collection of objets d'art located in Walterboro, South Carolina. On the sofa table is a photo of the Masiellos’ only son, Marty, whose picture welcomed visitors. In 1986, at 35, he died from service related illness acquired in Vietnam where he served with the 82nd Airborne as a Green Beret. Marty was recipient of the Bronze Star, Soldier's Medal of Valor and the Air Force Service Cross, et al. His two young sons grew up without their dad and were disinherited after ravenous residents of Walterboro had themselves named grandpa’s heirs via fraudulent Court papers.
Come peek inside and see sacred, intimate space in the home of an exploited 81-year old victim named Mario Masiello. Over the years, the house had been totally renovated and it was filled with accumulated treasured artifacts, memories and dreams collected over his life in happier bygone times. Then strangers with agendas left nothing but a heartbreaking and devastated shell of a much loved, but shattered life belonging to our patriarch.
Some might characterize the circumstances surrounding Mr. Masiello's demise as an elaborate conspiracy of misdirection, misinformation and treachery. Only the participants may know the whole truth. It’s clear, given Court records, however, a “feeding” frenzy took place and Mario’s life was decimated by meddlesome, voracious, greedy strangers who interjected themselves into a sacrosanct family dynamic and a home where they were not invited. Despite Mario’s physician going on the record stating he was “psychologically unstable”… ”a threat to himself and others”… ”at risk,” strangers took over a fragile life of a “severe Alzheimer’s dementia” patient. Despite pleas from the family and physicians, Mario was tragically exploited and this heartbreaking, lethal spectacle was the result.
After years of legal issues, in 2005, the NY Post interviewed and quoted Brenda Crosby, a neighbor of Mario’s on Prices Bridge Lane on the outskirts of Walterboro.
She told the NY Post: “We had no idea he had any money. He was just a poor old man...”
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.'"
** The presence of a drug metabolite in a forensic report is a reliable indicator that the person who ingested the substance and/or was given a “parent” drug of that metabolite, in this case, cocaine. A drug metabolite is a by-product of the body breaking down, or “metabolizing,” a drug into a different substance.
Please note: Mr. Masiello ingested all sustenance through a stomach tube following his February 2001 stroke and passed away on August 25, 2001. Forensic analysis was delayed on advice of two experts (a federal agent and a well known physician) due to events at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 which, “would flood forensic labs around the world for years to come.”
Gas chromatograph mass spectroscopy was used to examine Mr. Masiello’s hair (twice to verify the stunning results) and that technique is accurate, widely accepted and reliable. Mario was also medicated with Rispiradol to control symptoms of severe Alzheimer’s and its presence is noted in the report.
This test was performed in an independent laboratory by an expert in forensic toxicology.
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 awhile 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 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 is...at home and has a paid 24-hour caregiver because of his Alzheimer's disease."
Irene A. Masiello:
Bennett Blum, MD:
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 New York City's Craigslist who dazzled us with generosity and brilliance.
“Elder abuse is a social problem of increasing magnitude in the United States, and recent research suggests that elder abuse affects 15-20% of populations in parts of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Millions of Americans aged 65 or older have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone they depend on for care or protection. Elder abuse costs more than $2.6 billion per year.”
Many assisted in ways that cannot be measured. To those extraordinary people and,
especially, PRB, CJL & EJZ, the word gratitude falls short in acknowledging
your monumentous contributions. This effort could have never been made without your support, generosity, wisdom and expertise. Thank you.