Sweetheart Swindling: Financial Elder Abuse at its Most Heartbreaking

William Shakespeare said, "Love is too young to know what conscience is,", but in the case of Sweetheart Swindler Deborah Martin, she proved to know neither love nor conscience. It's financial elder abuse swindling.

Deborah Martin was recently found liable of perpetrating an egregious form of financial elder abuse in Royston, Ga.

Financial Elder Abuse Can Happen Without You Knowing It

This sad tale of financial elder abuse begins with Donn Henson. He often stopped off at a favorite local restaurant to enjoy his regular barbeque sandwich. Mr. Henson was in his late 70s, physically frail and suffering from the early symptoms of Alzheimer's-related dementia. He was usually alone, which made him an easy target for Martin, who worked at the restaurant.

Soon after their initial meeting, Ms. Martin began visiting Mr. Henson in his home, where she claims she did chores, providing friendship and dropping off fruit baskets. Authorities say she did much more, including using her feminine wiles

As Mr. Henson's family prepared to move him into an assisted-living facility, they discovered that Ms. Martin had removed more than $50,000 from their loved one's bank account. To make matters worse, they found nude photos of the woman on a camera in Mr. Henson's home? making it an even more disgusting case of financial elder abuse.

Needless to say, Mr. Henson's family went after Ms. Martin aggressively. On Aug. 15, a jury awarded them $70,000. The judgment came nearly two years after Mr. Henson passed away. Now, his family can finally begin to recover from their losses.

Financial elder abuse swindling comes in many forms; each year it costs Americans nearly $3 billion; but when it's perpetrated by a complete stranger, it may be nearly impossible to recognize and stop before significant damage is done. However, there are steps a family can take to protect their aging loved ones from those who want to exploit them:

  • Stay connected to your loved ones, use government resources, and share information about scams frequently.
  • Monitor your loved one's financial statements to ensure that there are no discrepancies. It is a good idea to set up a Power of Attorney so you can access these records legally in the case that your loved one becomes mentally or physical debilitated. Contact authorities immediately if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
  • Set up different financial accounts for different purposes. Have an account for everyday activities, another for bills and another for savings.

While William Shakespeare said, love may be too young to know conscience, we think have seen time and time again where love can grow to old to recognize a sweetheart swindler on the horizon. If a new friend or "companion" appears out of nowhere and seems to be acting out of love and affection, as in the case of Ms. Martin, be skeptical. Investigate their motives, or better yet, hire a private investigator to do the work for you.

Mike Garroutte, owner of Linked Investigations, is a licensed California private investigator. He has worked to solve elder abuse investigation cases for more than 30 years. In a case like the one we described above, asset search services can be used to begin looking for evidence of financial elder abuse. We can also use national criminal background check services to see if a suspected swindler has a record, or to assist you with pre-employment services before hiring a caregiver.

Published on: 
September 1, 2013
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