Elder abuse comes in many forms, but one of the types that is particularly devastating is financial abuse. When an elder can’t track their finances well or is unable to reach out for help when someone is taking advantage of them, they could be left with little or no money to survive on.
Take for example this case out of Tuolumne County in California. A man was found guilty of 18 of 20 felony counts of identity theft and elder theft after a juried trial. The man was accused of elder theft and identity theft resulting in over $26,000 of ATM cash withdrawals and checks that he made with his power-of-attorney privileges granted by his uncle.
Why was the man found guilty of these charges?
In this case, the 55-year-old man was accused of taking advantage of his role as the power of attorney for his uncle. His uncle was taken to Adventist Health Sonora in Palo Alto to be treated for gangrene, and it’s at that point that the man was accused of making withdrawals and funds transfers, purchases and more from the man’s account. Around two-thirds of the stolen money, estimated at around $30,000, was routed through the 55-year-old man’s charity, Pilots of Wishes.
He was accused of taking advantage of the financial accounts to fund his own ventures, but the defense argued that the money was actually used to pay workers who built a garage for the older man’s benefit.
The jury had to look at the case from a few different angles and determine if the victim in this case, the elderly man, was vulnerable to financial abuse and if the defendant had used professionalism or planning when committing those crimes. The jury also had to decide if the money allegedly stolen was of “great monetary value,” and if the defendant had violated the victim’s trust and breached his power-of-attorney role’s duties.
Power of attorney is for the benefit of the individual who assigned it
This case is a good one to use to point out that someone with power of attorney rights does need to do what is in the best interests of the elder who assigned them. If a person with power of attorney takes advantage of the other person’s finances, then they could be held accountable and asked to repay those funds or be penalized in other ways.