A Broward County husband-and-wife have been sentenced to seven years behind bars, following their jury conviction in March for exploitation of the elderly.
Our Hollywood elder abuse lawyers know that the pair could have faced up to 30 years in prison.
The case highlights an all-too-common phenomenon of elderly financial abuse, something to which many seniors are vulnerable.
In this case, the married couple, the husband 48 and the wife 52, befriended a 94-year-old woman in their Hollywood neighborhood. They then convinced her to allow them to take on the role of her financial advisers. The wife may have been especially convincing, as she worked as a stock broker.
However, rather than responsibly managing the elder woman’s finances, they attempted to swindle her out of her $10 million estate.
Witnesses say the two convinced the older woman to disinherit beloved family members. Later, she was lured into turning her money over to them.
The woman was reportedly suffering from dementia. Like many others her age, she lacked the capacity to make sound decisions. The couple knew this, prosecutors said, and marched her over to an attorney in order to have her alter the will to include them in it.
However, the woman’s son was more vigilant than the pair anticipated. He had been tracking his mother’s financial status, and contacted police when he found that the two were essentially helping themselves to anywhere from $500 to $5,000 at a time.
In all, the couple were reportedly able to trick the woman – and her elderly sister – into handing over $100,000 to them. They then put themselves in a position to receive more from the inheritance, once the woman died.
Defense attorneys had attempted to argue that the elder woman’s deposits were genuine displays of both appreciation and affection for the two, for whom she had grown to care after developing a deep personal bond.
Thankfully, the jury wasn’t buying it.
Sadly, cases like this are far from isolated, even if the victim doesn’t have a multi-million dollar estate hanging in the balance.
Financial exploitation is every bit as abusive as a physical wound. It robs a person of their dignity, their independence and all too often, everything they have worked so hard for. One person’s greed can leave them destitute.
Recognizing this type of abuse can be a bit tougher. There are no bruises or scars. Relatives or loved ones may not think to closely follow their elderly loved ones’ finances because they assume there is nothing to worry about, particularly if he or she is a resident at a nursing home.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a study last year indicating that in 2010, the cost of older adult financial exploitation in this country cost nearly $3 billion annually.
Perhaps the best line of defense in these cases are friends and family members who remain watchful and unafraid to follow up and press for more details.
It can be difficult to spot, but some of the potential indicators could include:
–Your elderly loved one seems to be strongly influenced by a friend or relative or nursing home caregiver. Be mindful that this individual could be trying to get control of the elder person’s finances, while keeping them in a passive role.
–You notice sudden changes to your loved one’s individual financial accounts or life insurance policies.
–You become aware that accounts belonging to your elderly loved one now have joint account holders or authorized signers.
–A caregiver at any point requests access to bank accounts or other assets – including as a condition of providing care.
–You take note of a sudden change in your older loved one’s individual financial status or the account activity.
–Your elderly loved one has recently made changes to property titles.
–Your older loved one has new financial arrangements about which they seem unable to explain or just generally confused about.
–You notice a lack of personal care in terms of hygiene or in other areas, despite the fact that his or her financial means would suggest the standard of care should be elevated.
Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Broward couple sentenced in elderly exploitation case, April 24, 2013, By Rafael Olmeda, Sun Sentinel
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Florida Nursing Home Abuse Investigation Leads to Fine, April 19, 2013, Hollywood Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog