Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Caretaker Allegedly Bilks 86-Year-Old

Key West,Florida USA by Mandy Bolen

A Big Pine Key woman remained in jail Monday afternoon, facing charges of elderly exploitation. She is accused of stealing from an elderly man she cared for in Marathon.

Felicia Sheppard, 54, told a Monroe County sheriff's detective that she was a "good Christian" and would not hurt her 86-year-old charge, reports say.
Nevertheless, detectives believe Sheppard drained the victim's checking and savings accounts, wrote checks to herself and used the money to buy herself clothes, jewelry and a 48-inch flat screen television.

Sheppard said she had heard in her church that the victim needed assistance because people were taking advantage of him and his memory problems. She moved into his home in Marathon about four months ago, said sheriff's spokeswoman Becky Herrin.

A detective found the 48-inch television in Sheppard's bedroom while the victim, whose money had paid for the television, watched an old 19-inch set, reports say.

The detective began investigating after bank employees noticed checks written on the victim's account and signed with his name, but in a signature that clearly was not his. Sheppard sometimes signed his name and sometimes had him sign checks over to her, reports say.

Sheppard used the money to buy women's clothing, jewelry and makeup — items that were not being used by the victim, reports say.

Sheppard initially denied signing the checks, and said the man sometimes allowed her to buy things for herself and her mother, and they would reimburse him, reports say. But when the detective pointed out that no deposits had been made to the victim's account, Sheppard admitted spending his money, reports say.

If convicted of elderly exploitation, which is a third-degree felony because the amount allegedly stolen is less than $20,000, Sheppard faces up to five years in prison.

Court records show she previously was convicted of battery and driving under the influence.

Monroe County authorities handle "a handful" of such exploitation cases each year, Herrin said, adding that there is a difference between elderly exploitation and elderly abuse, which is usually physical in nature.
"This case is fairly typical," Herrin said Monday. "A caretaker moves in and generally ends up taking advantage."

She said it is important for people to be watchful of their elderly neighbors and relatives to prevent such a crime.

"Fortunately, we did have someone notice the problem at the bank," she said. "But it makes you wonder how often it happens when we don't find out about it."

In Florida, the Department of Children and Families investigates reports of elderly abuse and exploitation, which can be made by calling 1-800-96ABUSE.

1 comment:

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