This is a follow up to my last blog about being subpoenaed in an elder fraud case. Sadly, the commonwealth attorney and police detective both know that the woman stole money money from my client. At 91, she suffers from Parkinson’s but can walk on her own, feed herself (and help feed others), and you can often have pleasant conversations with her and she initiates questions back to you. She also has the cognitive issues that can come in tandem with Parkinson’s. When I first met her she presented with more short-term memory loss and had organization issues. The Parkinson’s was diagnosed a year after I stepped in to help with the daily money management and bill pay support.
The caregiver admitted to the detective she asked for the money. My client apparently told the detective the woman asked her for money. Taking money from clients is against the employment agreement she signed in addition to being an ethical failure.
I do know that my client had no idea where the checkbook was located in her apartment, nor could she have written the check on her own. The caregiver rooted through my clients belongings to find the checkbook.
I studied the check and it was easy to see that my client started to write the check (shaky, sloping hand-writing), but then someone else finished writing the check. I had samples to show that the way the check was written was very different (she wrote dollars and cents which my client never did). I figured a handwriting expert would not be on hand, but as a Daily Money Manager I could point out how I could tell that someone else finished writing the check.
After waiting for three hours for the case to be called, the attorney tells me (and the community care manager who was also there to testify) that only if we can confirm that my client didn’t understand that writing the check took money from her account would we get a conviction. So they DISMISSED the case. It will be VERY hard to convict someone based on how the current law is written. You will see the statute below which also illustrates the lack of knowledge around dementia.
Two good outcomes from this include:
1) The charge is now on her record so hopefully it will dissuade other
home care agencies and communities from hiring her again.
2) She is paying back the money.
The reality for those of us that have loved ones with dementia is that we know one could NEVER truly say they don’t understand that the money came from their account until very late stages of the disease. We witness a variety of ways their intellect shines through this horrible diagnosis.
So the LAW will fail us … at least in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I am putting together best practices to consider now that we know our hands are tied when we try to prosecute those who would take advantage of older adults with cognitive issues. Even if we can’t get the conviction, it is in our best interests to always report it to the police. The fighter in me is just getting going. Alerted.
§ 18.2-178.1. Financial exploitation of mentally incapacitated persons; penalty.
A. It is unlawful for any person who knows or should know that another person suffers from mental incapacity to, through the use of that other person’s mental incapacity, take, obtain, or convert money or other thing of value belonging to that other person with the intent to permanently deprive him thereof. Any person who violates this section shall be deemed guilty of larceny.
B. Venue for the trial of an accused charged with a violation of this section shall be in any county or city in which (i) any act was performed in furtherance of the offense or (ii) the accused resided at the time of the offense.
C. This section shall not apply to a transaction or disposition of money or other thing of value in which the accused acted for the benefit of the person with mental incapacity or made a good faith effort to assist such person with the management of his money or other thing of value.
D. As used in this section, “mental incapacity” means that condition of a person existing at the time of the offense described in subsection A that prevents him from understanding the nature or consequences of the transaction or disposition of money or other thing of value involved in such offense.