7 On Your Side Investigates 2023: Guardianship donations, EBT stolen money and a life-saving surgery

Kristin Thorne Image
Friday, December 29, 2023
Year in Review: Guardianship donations and EBT stolen money
As we close out 2023 - our 7 On Your Side Investigates team is looking back on some of their most impactful stories of the year.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- As we close out 2023, our 7 On Your Side Investigates team is looking back on some of their most impactful stories of the year.

At the beginning of the year, investigative reporter Kristin Thorne took a deep look at the adult guardianship system in New York. Using public databases, we uncovered numerous examples of guardianship judges receiving donations from guardianship lawyers and then those lawyers later receiving guardianship appointments from the judges they donated to.

We brought the donation data to New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D-Manhattan), the chairman of the state Senate's judiciary committee. He told us in an interview Jan. 20 the issue was "concerning."

We checked with Holyman-Sigal to see if he took any steps to address his concerns about the information we brought to him.

He responded with a statement last week: "Judges should be impartial and not be influenced by campaign donations or other favors. Any such behavior is disturbing and unfair to litigants, he said. New Yorkers deserve a legal system that operates with transparency and integrity."

In September, we did a story on money being stolen from people's New York State-issued food stamp debit cards and cash assistance electronic benefits. It's believed much of the theft happened as a result of people swiping their debit cards on machines with skimming devices.

Since our story aired, the New York City Department of Social Services said 29,000 more claims have been filed with the department from people seeking to get back their stolen money. The department said it has given out an additional $10.5 million to people who had their money stolen, which means since August the city has given out more than $15 million in replacement benefits.

The state has also extended the deadline to submit a claim for retroactive benefits that were stolen. People now have until Dec. 31. To file a claim, click here.

Lastly, the 7 On Your Side Investigates team received a happy update in 2023.

Over the summer, the team received word that Anthony Di Laura, a man from the Bronx who was dying of a rare disease that was attacking his abdominal organs, received life-saving surgery.

Di Laura's wife had contacted Eyewitness News because his insurance company wouldn't cover the procedure, calling it "investigational" and saying doctors had determined it could be harmful to him.

In July, Di Laura had the surgery at Cleveland Clinic. He is now home, doing well and excited to celebrate the holidays with his family. Di Laura and his wife, Jackie, said our team was instrumental in getting the surgery to happen.

If you have a story you want the 7 On Your Side Investigates team to investigate in 2024, send us an email at 7onyoursidekristin@abc.com or 7onyoursidedan@abc.com.


DO YOU NEED A STORY INVESTIGATED? Dan Krauth, Kristin Thorne, and the 7 On Your Side Investigates team at Eyewitness News want to hear from you! Call our confidential tip line 1-877-TIP-NEWS (847-6397) or fill out the form BELOW.


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