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Jun 8, 2022 by |

Orange County Financial Elder Abuse Attorneys: Pastor Pleads Guilty To Using Power of Attorney To Steal From Dementia Victim

ATTORNEY NEWSLETTER

Pleads Guilty To Embezzlement From Elder

Credit Union Loan Officer Reports Irregularities 

Paster Allegedly Had Powers of Attorney For Several Church Members

Powers of attorney (POAs) grant the agents appointed under them full legal authority to act for the principal who executes the POA.  The person appointed under the POA is called the Principal’s Attorney-in-Fact and the Attorney-in-Fact’s authority extends to almost every form of financial transaction unless the POA specifically limits his or powers. See Cal. Prob. Code §§ 4401 (statutory form for financial POA). The potential for abuse of such broad power is always present.  Misuse of a POA abuse includes outright theft of the principal’s money or property and, in a broader sense, making any decision or taking any action that is not in the donor’s best interest.  Even for the most trustworthy attorney-in-fact, the burden of making decisions for a principal is a heavy one.  Therefore, we recommend you appoint two trusted individuals as agents under any POA to act jointly.  We also recommend that you never, ever, grant a Power of Attorney to a caregiverCaregivers and others can wield their POA power to change a principal’s entire estate plan and redirect the principal’s assets to themselves.  If an agent has misused a POA to your or an older loved one’s detriment in Orange County or elsewhere in California call us at (415)441-8669 or toll free at 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).

Example Of Financial Elder Abuse By Power Of Attorney

In a recently reported case,[1] a pastor allegedly stole up to $50,000 from a 91-year-old church member, and has agreed to plead guilty and pay restitution.  According to police, the pastor took the elderly church member who reportedly has dementia to a credit union to apply for a loan to buy a pontoon.  The loan officer denied the loan request even after she was shown a power of attorney document for the elderly member that the pastor presented during the loan application process. According to police, the loan officer became suspicious when she noticed the pastor’s folder contained other power of attorney documents for other members of the same church.  She informed the Branch Manager about the suspicious incident, who called police.

According to police, the defendant repeatedly used the couple’s money to make personal payments on his own behalf, including for a car loan. A police investigation revealed that on the same day the pastor failed to secure a loan from the one credit union, he went to another credit union and managed to obtain a loan to buy the pontoon. Moreover, he allegedly returned later to that same credit union for a car loan that was approved. Because the pastor’s credit rating was so poor, he used the member’s power of attorney document to get the loans approved, according to police. The police investigation also found that the pastor convinced the victim’s wife before she died to sign over their modular home into the name of the church.

In all, the pastor allegedly embezzled up to $50,000 from the credit union member, which also included cashing in on a $3,000 life insurance policy on the victim and a $10,000 life insurance policy on the deceased wife. The pastor reportedly used some of the life insurance money to pay for casino trips.

Remedies Against Attorneys-in-Fact For Misuse Of POAs

Misuse of a POA is grounds for civil liability of twice any amounts taken and attorneys’ fees for the victim. Probate Code § 4231.5.  Where the principal is over age 65 the misuse also constitutes criminal and civil financial elder abuse under California law.  Penal Code § 368; Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.30.  Agents who wrongfully take the property of seniors are responsible not only for twice the amount taken under the Probate Code but also, under the Elder Abuse Act, enhanced damages.  Both the Probate Code and the Elder Abuse Act grant the injured senior attorneys’ fees and expenses incurred in suing to get their property back. Probate Code § 4231.5(c); Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15657.5.  In addition to straightforward theft, California law also prohibits an agent from designating beneficiaries or creating future (or survivorship) interests in the principal’s property unless specifically authorized to do so in a POA.  Cal. Prob. Code § 4264.  The agent is strictly prohibited from making or revoking the principal’s Will. Cal. Prob. Code § 4265. 

Contact Us

Ingrid M. Evans can represent you if an agent has misused a Power of Attorney granted by you or an older loved one in Orange County or elsewhere in California.  If you need help, call us today at 415-441-8669 or toll free at 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).or by email at <a href=”mailto:info@evanslaw.com”>info@evanslaw.com</a>. Ingrid will pursue all remedies available against the agent, including attorneys’ fees and expenses for the older person required to bring an action based on the agent’s wrongful conduct.

[1] Evans Law Firm, Inc. was not involved in the reported case in any way.

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