Caregivers convicted of exploiting 74-year-old vulnerable adult
Theresa Alice Titus
Two caregivers were convicted of exploiting a 74-year old vulnerable adult in Willcox, after a Cochise County jury trial last week.
Reynard Gordon and Theresa Alice Titus were convicted of fraudulent schemes and artifices, theft from a vulnerable adult, and two counts of forgery, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a Nov. 22 statement.
The 74-year old victim, whom a psychologist had deemed vulnerable to exploitation, had deposited two $60,000 checks into her account at the Cochise Credit Union, in Willcox.
At the urging of Titus, the woman then attempted to immediately withdraw $30,000.
Titus also tried to deposit into her own account $15,000 and $9,900 in checks, written against the victim's account, Brnovich said.
Gordon had also presented the credit union with an “Affidavit of Donation,” attesting that the victim wanted to give Gordon the entire $120,000, as well as giving Gordon financial and medical power of attorney over her, he said.
When it appeared that the victim did not understand the document, the credit union refused to notarize the power of attorney, instead contacting Adult Protective Services, Brnovich said.
After a search of the victim's home – which had no running water – police found $14,800 in cash hidden in a “derelict truck,” where Gordon appeared to be living, he said.
More than $10,000 of the victim's money remains missing, Brnovich said.
Gordon and Titus are scheduled for sentencing on Monday, Dec. 18, in Cochise County Superior Court, in Bisbee.
According to court records, both Gordon and Titus were arrested in June of 2016.
While her comments are not specific to the case, Cochise County Sheriff's Office Spokeswoman Carol Capas talked about the potential for victimizing the elderly.
“The problem is when you have someone who does not have any support (by family or close friends) and they are vulnerable,” she told the Range News.
What makes these cases difficult is that they may not be reported, as the elderly person might not realize they are being victimized, Capas said.
“Once they become aware of the fraud/theft, it may be too late because the suspect(s) could be already gone and/or the victim may pass and no one is aware of the situation,” she said. “We can tell people not to let anyone into their lives without knowing/trusting them, but those people can be the same ones that steal from them.”
The Sheriff's Office encourages family members to be aware of their elders and to “help keep track of their financial and medical needs as often possible,” though doing so can be problematic, “due to the lack of family and friends, as well as “the isolation in more rural parts of the county for elderly people,” Capas said.
She reminds area residents about the Sheriff's Office “Are You OK? (RUOK)” program, established in 2012.
The program requires participants to sign up, providing basic personal information and a signed liability waiver, to be added to the Sheriff’s Office subscriber list.
Once a resident is added to the list, a phone call is made to them at their requested interval, such as once a day, twice a week, etc. If there is no answer after several tries, a “point of contact” will be asked to check on the subscriber. If no “point of contact” is available, then a law enforcement officer will be sent to do the check.
Registration forms are available through the Sheriff’s Office by calling (520) 432-9500, and is also on the County website, http://cochise.az.gov
Capas acknowledges that while the program helps “reassure the client that we will help keep them safe,” it does not, however, “help with the daily needs where a person is needed to take care of them.”
“We encourage anyone who hires help in their home to keep their personal information (including checks, banking information, and credit cards) in a locked/safe place, and review banking activity regularly to see if you notice any discrepancies,” she told the Range News. “If they notice anything suspicious, we ask them to contact local law enforcement immediately.”
The State Attorney General's Office also reminds Arizona residents that if a vulnerable adult is being physically harmed in any way, contact 9-1-1 in an emergency.
For non-emergency abuse or neglect, contact Adult Protective Services (APS), with the Arizona Department of Economic Security, at (877) SOS-ADULT or (877) 767-2385.
Anyone who believes that a vulnerable adult is being financially exploited should contact APS or call the Attorney General's Task Force Against Senior Abuse at (602) 542-2124.
APS accepts reports of elder abuse by phone, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday and state holidays from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Online reports may be made 24 hours a day, seven days a week at www.azdes.gov/reportadultabuse.
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