Here’s a story of financial elder abuse that reads like it’s straight out of a Stephen King novel. Like many of King’s stories, this real-life horror story also involves a small cabin in Maine where an 85-year old woman from California was finally liberated from “friends” who dragged her cross-country while draining her life savings like vampires.
After the victim’s funds were exhausted, she was left alone to fend for herself in 93-degree heat with no phone and very little food. Her “friends” — 41-year old twins Barbara and Nicholas Davis and 20-year-old Jonathan Stevans — have been charged with felony endangerment of a dependent…for starters.
The investigating detective has told ABC News that the case as “a textbook example” of financial elder abuse…
The woman told authorities that she had sold her Los Angeles home in 2008 for $600,000, moving into an apartment complex where she met the suspects, who gradually won her confidence and gained access to her bank accounts and investments. No befuddlement or impairment on the woman’s part was to blame — she was in good health physically and mentally. Rather, she was lonely.
The manager of the Pine Crest Motor Court in Edgecomb, Maine, called authorities when he became suspicious not long after the three perpetrators moved their elderly victim into the tiny cabin. As reported in The Lincoln County News, manager Jerry Pike said the Davis twins and Stevans originally inquired about rates for an extended stay…
“They wanted a deal for the season and told me their middle-aged mother was an artist who needed peace and quiet away from her children,” Pike said. “I was given a deposit, and I told them specifically that they couldn’t move in until I had all the money.”
Pike said the trio contacted him a few days later stating they were having trouble “coming up with the money” because of problems cashing a social security check.
“I became suspicious because they seemed like they had money. They drove what looked like a $50,000 truck and wore expensive clothes,” Pike said. “They talked like educated people.”
Pike said his suspicion peaked when the suspects said they were only able to access $100 a day despite traveling in what he described as lavish style.
Despite the suspects’ specific instructions not to bother the elderly woman, Pike checked on the cabin periodically by knocking gently to see if anyone was inside. Eventually the lack of a response became impossible to ignore, and he called a neighbor to check on the welfare of the woman. The pair called the sheriff’s office and requested the welfare check that led to the woman’s rescue.
The sad truth about this sensational story is that most cases of financial elder abuse go unreported and undetected. Yes, it’s true that victims of financial elder abuse are often exploited by misplaced trust in helpful friends. But even more often the abusers are predatory caregivers or family members.
Financial elderly abuse is a growing crime that some experts estimate has affected as many as 3.5 million elderly. A recent study estimated total losses at $2.9 billion.
Don’t let your aging parents or loved ones become the victim of financial elder abuse. Check out these two outstanding (and free!) resources from the MetLife Mature Market Institute: Preventing Elder Financial Abuse for Older Adults and Preventing Elder Financial Abuse for Family Caregivers.