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January 16, 2012

Missoula Woman Found Guilty of Stealing $120K from Elderly Mother with Dementia (USA)

Missoula woman found guilty of stealing $120K from elderly mother with dementia
January 14, 2012

Prosecutors say they won't seek prison time for a Missoula woman convicted Friday afternoon of bilking her elderly and dementia-laden mother out of more than $120,000.
Paulette Homer was found guilty Friday by District Judge Karen Townsend of using the proceeds from a reverse mortgage of her mother's home to pay off credit card debts, buy jewelry, stable her horses, pay medical bills, take out cash withdrawals in the thousands of dollars and otherwise raid her mother's account.
Townsend oversaw the bench trial over the past week.
The case pitted Homer against her three siblings, all of whom believed their sister had abused their mother's trust and taken advantage of her condition to fund the relief of Homer's debt and her purchases, which also included furniture and other items for a new condominium.
In opening and closing arguments, prosecutors Jennifer Clark and Cory Laird told the judge that elder abuse is rampant in the U.S., and that Homer's actions are yet another example of it.
"Every time we look the other way and we allow this to occur, we give these criminals a pass," said Laird in his closing argument on Friday.
Homer's court-appointed attorney, Lisa Kauffman, did not offer a closing statement and did not put her client on the stand.
Kauffman argued that Homer's three siblings were merely incensed that they did not get any of their mother's money, and told the judge in opening arguments that "the state should be ashamed" for bringing charges against her client. She argued that Homer's mother was aware of what she was doing and that it constituted a "gift" to her daughter.
Townsend's verdict disagreed, and she set Homer's sentencing for March 6. Homer remains free pending sentencing for the crime, which carries a potential sentence of 10 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.
Homer's elderly mother was suffering from increasing dementia - Alzheimer's in particular - when Homer arranged a reverse mortgage on her home in the spring of 2008, prosecutors argued. She had no mental capacity to appreciate or understand what she was doing, witnesses testified during the trial.
Meanwhile, Homer - who was having trouble selling her Florence home after her own husband died of dementia - purchased a condominium in Missoula. After her Florence home sold, Homer used none of those proceeds or the refinancing of her new condo to return any money to her mother's account.
A Missoula police investigation showed that Homer got a check for $141,308 from the reverse mortgage in 2008, and then over the next several months wrote checks totaling $120,593. Those checks ranged from $300 to a hair salon to a total of $9,000 to Homer's two daughters and $5,000 to Homer herself for cash, the investigation showed.
She also wrote a $31,421 check to Montana First Credit Union. Homer also made several online payments, totaling $20,544, to financial institutions, as well as to Zales Jewelers and Lowe's.


SOURCE:     The Missoulian
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