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Mystery of Richard Simmons’s Disappearance Puts Spotlight on Elder Abuse

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Richard Simmons was a fitness scene mainstay in the days before P-90X and other high intensity workouts became all the craze.  Even into his into his 60s Simmons remained a regular on TV, dressed in his traditional sequined and crystal tanks tops and very short, shorts, talking up the importance of exercise.   Then, almost as suddenly as he hit the big stage, he was gone.  And it was not a long goodbye, as Simmons literally vanished from public life.  Soon came rumors and allegations leveled by some of his former friends that he was being held against his will inside his gated mansion by a controlling housekeeper named Teresa Reveles.

This unbelievable story got even bigger approximately one year ago when Simmons called in from his mansion to The Today Show and denied that he was being held against his will and that he was simply rehabbing an injured knee.

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However, instead of calming the waters, the story had almost the opposite effect.   It quickly restarted rumors that the most recognizable man in the fitness industry had become a recluse, possibly against his will.  After all, he had then not been seen publicly in nearly three years at that time.  Now, another year has gone by and questions continue to swirl. Then gas was poured on the fire and it has all reignited this spring with the release of a podcast titled Missing Richard Simmons.

The multi-part podcast gained widespread attention when the the third episode aired last week and a longtime friend of the fitness celebrity and his former masseuse, Mauro Oliveira, brought to light allegations again that Simmons was essentially a victim of elder abuse, being held against his will by his housekeeper who controls everything about the man.

According to a longtime elder abuse non-profit organization in California, there are two forms of elder abuse in California,  both criminal and civil.

Criminal elder abuse “occurs where any person who violates any provision of law proscribing criminal theft, embezzlement, forgery, or fraud of an elder and also knows or reasonably should know that the victim is an elder.”   There is a maximum punishment of up to four years in jail, depending on the severity of the abuse.

Civil elder abuse is more of a financial crime against an elderly person who may suffer from memory loss.  It can it can involve any of the following, when a person:

1. Takes real or personal property of an elder 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.

3. Takes real or personal property of an by undue influence. Undue influence means excessive persuasion that result in inequity.

I believe what Oliveira describes in the podcast likely might be classified as elderly abuse under California law, if what he claims is true.  He says he is no longer allowed to speak to his former friend and the housekeeper controls all access to Simmons’ finances, visits and phone calls.

Simmons representatives, however, are fighting back strongly and denying and of Oliveira’s claims, according to People magazine.

Simmons’ rep, Tom Estey, called the claims “a load of crap” and said his client has simply decided the time is right to fade from the national spotlight.

However, there are other of Simmons’ former friends who are also concerned, especially the creator off the podcast, Dan Taberski. Oliveira made the explosive claims about Simmons being held against his will on Taberski’s podcast.

Oliveira described arriving around 6:00 PM at Simmons’ residence one of the last times they spoke and described seeing Simmons “sitting in the living room, and he was very weakly, physically and mentally. He was trembling.”

Oliveria then claimed Simmons told him, “I called you here because we cannot see each other anymore. I’m just going to stay here.” Oliveria claimed the housekeeper was present most of the time, seemingly assuring Simmons did not leave her earshot.

Nonetheless, Simmons’ reps say its all false. Estey said the housekeeper was a 27-year employee of Simmons who would never harm him.

“Theresa is the housekeeper, she’s the caretaker, she is extraordinary, she is amazing, she takes impeccable care of Richard and she has for as long as I have been working with Richard, so that is a complete load of crap,” Estey said..

Taberski said his only goal with the podcast was to “get help” for Richard because he really feels he is “pretty much locked in his home.”

[image via screengrab]

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