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Has Richard Simmons Become the Victim of Elder Abuse?

MP900289434Mystery surrounding the disappearance of the fitness guru from the headlines sparked by podcast, but raises awareness of elder abuse.

Richard Simmons was one of the more colorful workout characters of the 1980s. With a head of puffy curls and big brown eyes, he was known for wearing over-the-top workout clothes, including extremely short gym shorts and sequined tank tops, well into his 60s. He was a TV regular, appearing on national shows to share his unique, high-energy brand of health and exercise. Suddenly, he seemingly disappeared. There were rumors that Simmons was being held against his will in his own home by his housekeeper, Teresa Reveles.

LawNewz recently published an article, “Mystery of Richard Simmons’s Disappearance Puts Spotlight on Elder Abuse,” that discusses this unbelievable story.

Just a year ago Simmons called The Today Show and denied that he was being held against his will. He claimed that he was only rehabbing his injured knee. This call only fueled more rumors that the fitness industry’s most recognizable man was now a recluse—and perhaps against his will. Simmons hadn’t been seen publicly in almost three years at the time. After another year, the questions persist. More gas was poured on the fire this spring with the release of a podcast titled “Missing Richard Simmons.”

The episode of the podcast recently aired and created even more controversy. Simmons’ longtime friend and his former masseuse, Mauro Oliveira, again revealed allegations that he was, in essence, a victim of elder abuse. Oliveira claimed that Simmons was being held against his will by his housekeeper, who controls all aspects of his life.

There are two types of elder abuse in California, criminal and civil. Criminal elder abuse is when a person violates any provision of law such as criminal theft, embezzlement, forgery, or fraud of an elder and also knows or reasonably should know that the victim is an elder. The maximum punishment is up to four years in jail, based on the severity of the abuse. Criminal elder abuse can involve any of these, when a person:

  1. Takes a senior’s real or personal property for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud (or both);
  2. Assists in the taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining or retaining real or personal property of an elder for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud (or both); or
  3. Takes real or personal property by undue influence … excessive persuasion that results in inequity.

The description of Simmons’ treatment in Oliveira’s podcast might be classified as elderly abuse under California law, if it’s true. Oliveira claims that he’s no longer permitted to speak to Simmons, and that the housekeeper controls all access to Simmons’ finances, visits and phone calls.  However, Simmons’ representatives refute and deny Oliveira’s claims, according to People magazine.

Simmons’ rep, Tom Estey, called the claims “a load of crap.” Estey says that his client just decided the time is right to retire from the limelight. Nevertheless, Simmons’ representatives say it’s all false. Estey said the housekeeper was a 27-year employee of Simmons who would never hurt him.

Is this a case of a podcast looking for a larger audience, or a terrible example of elder abuse at the hands of a trusted employee? It may simply be that Richard Simmons’ flamboyant persona is looking for a little peace and quiet.

Reference: LawNewz (March 7, 2017) “Mystery of Richard Simmons’s Disappearance Puts Spotlight on Elder Abuse”