Former Bookkeeper Convicted on Charges of Financial Elder Abuse

Former Nursing Home Bookkeeper Guilty on Charges of Financial Elder Abuse

charges of financial elder abuseA bookkeeper for an Alabama nursing home has been convicted on charges of financial elder abuse after being charged for stealing money from residents. Mary K. Nowell, 49, pleaded guilty on Tuesday, July 2nd, to charges of theft of patient funds from the Evergreen Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in Conecuh County, AL.

Nowell was employed by the nursing home as a bookkeeper from November 2008 to February 2013, when she was arrested on charges of financial elder abuse and theft. Reportedly, Crowne Management, which owns the Evergreen Nursing Home, conducted an internal audit of patient trust funds and found discrepancies with payments and the amount of money in patient accounts. Auditors found that Nowell had embezzled over $4,000 from the residents by manipulating computer-based accounting records. The auditors immediately reported the financial elder abuse to the Alabama state attorney general’s office.

“We are grateful for the diligence of the facility’s management in discovering this theft and taking prompt action to bring the defendant to justice,” said Attorney General Strange. “Today’s conviction should serve as a message that preying upon vulnerable nursing home residents will not be tolerated.” Nowell’s financial elder abuse charges and theft of property charges are a class B felony in the state, and she was sentenced to 14 months in prison, but the sentence was suspended to 14 months’ probation. She was also ordered to pay $4,280 in restitution to the nursing home, with an additional $500 fine to the state.

As More Seniors Move into Assisted Living and Nursing Homes, Financial Elder Abuse is On the Rise

Although senior citizens have always been susceptible to financial elder abuse from family members or caregivers, as more elderly patients move into nursing homes, institutional financial elder abuse is becoming a much bigger problem.

“These (residents) are vulnerable; the nursing home is supposed to take care of them,” says Phyllis Foster, 67, whose 89-year-old mother-in-law had funds embezzled by Martin. “I was surprised there wasn’t more oversight.” A report in USA Today highlights the seriousness of the issue. Many nursing homes are private institutions, and there is little government regulation, especially on the federal level. According to USA Today’s report, in many cases, the finance administrators at nursing homes are responsible for cases of financial elder abuse.

“These crimes are clearly crimes of opportunity,” the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in written responses to questions. “The last thing (nursing home residents) should have to worry about is getting ripped off by the very people they’ve entrusted with their care.” “I do think there’s an oversight issue … There aren’t a lot of safeguards in the system,” says Ken Moore, a senior assistant attorney general in South Carolina’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, which has prosecuted at least a dozen trust fund theft cases in recent years. “A lot of these cases involve an office manager or a business or finance manager, and they’re the only ones at the facility who really know how much money is coming in and going out of these accounts, Moore adds. “So these cases can be very difficult to detect — a lot of these people get caught just by happenstance.” The article also revealed that, among 100 prosecutions of former employees, more than 30% of those convicted stole tens of thousands of dollars at least. At least 10 thefts exceeded $100,000.

The Strom Law Firm Defends Senior Citizens against Financial Elder Abuse

If you or a loved one has been the victim of financial elder abuse or exploitation by your care facility, nursing home, caregiver, or a relative, contact us today. Come in for a free consultation with one of our nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers to discuss your situation and hear how we can help. 803.252.4800

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