Monday, March 17, 2008

Seniors Golden Years Turn Into Golden Fears

Yakima, WA . USA by Leah Beth Ward

Whenever Moleen Cline remembers the neighborly knock on her door two years ago, she still gets a shudder of anxiety.

Duane Lee Ortiz put on a good show, talking his way into Cline's condo in Yakima by offering to wash her windows inside and out. While he was at it, he'd shine up the mirrors, too. He was down on his luck, he told her, and just needed to make a little money. "You have this kind of maternal feeling toward him. I just let him have the run of the house," she said.

Sure enough, a day later when Cline went to put onthe diamond ring her husband had given her two years before he died, it wasgone. Yakima police immediately suspected Ortiz, who two years earlier hadswindled more than $100,000 from a retired machinist living in aYakima mobile home court. For that crime, prosecutors had to plea bargain and ended up with only a seven-day sentence.

"The punishment did not fit the crime," recalled Therese Murphy, deputy prosecuting attorney for Yakima County.

In Yakima County, reports of suspected financial exploitation of seniors increased 24 percent in 2007, compared with 2006.

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