Feb 23, 2010

Caregiver Steals $138,000 from 83 Year Old Woman

By +Bob DeMarco 
+Alzheimer's Reading Room


If you are going to hire a caregiver from a service or on your own -- protect your loved one and yourself.

One simple way to protect your loved one is to set up the online service that is offered by all banks. This way you can go in check the account every week to see if their is any suspicious activity. It only takes a few minutes and it could save you from heart ache and from getting robbed.

Same advice on credit card accounts.

Not doing this? Continue reading this sad story. This situation could have been avoided. And, it could happen to you if you are not diligent and careful.

Caregiver charged with stealing from elderly South San Francisco woman

A caretaker from Santa Rosa has pleaded not guilty to stealing about $138,000 from an 83-year-old South San Francisco woman she was hired to look after, officials said.

Prosecutors say Niumai Lawanivalu, 48, began taking care of the woman, who suffers from dementia, in July and soon began writing checks to herself from the victim's bank accounts. Lawanivalu turned herself in to South San Francisco police on Friday, and she entered her plea Monday in San Mateo County Superior Court.

Lawanivalu is charged with 10 counts of commercial burglary and 11 counts of theft from an elder by a caretaker, said chief deputy district attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Detectives began investigating Lawanivalu when officials from one of the elderly woman's banks became suspicious after noticing a large amount of account activity, said South San Francisco police Lt. Alan Normandy. Bank officials contacted adult protective services, who in turn got ahold of police. An investigation traced the missing $138,000 back to Lawanivalu, he said.
When confronted with the theft by the victim's family during a recorded phone call, Lawanivalu allegedly begged the family not to call the police, Wagstaffe said. She took the money to pay for a gambling habit, he said.

The elderly woman's family hired Lawanivalu through local referral agency From the Heart Homecare. About two weeks after she started working for the victim, Lawanivalu told the woman's family she would work for lower rates than those charged by the agency, which collects a percentage of what the caretakers are paid, authorities said.

The victim's family then canceled the contract with From the Heart Homecare, while Lawanivalu told the agency she was going on vacation, said Lisa Harrison, office manager for the agency. From the Heart Homecare has filed lawsuits against the victim's family and Lawanivalu in an effort to collect money owed them, Harrison said.

"When they go behind our backs, there is not much we can do," said agency co-owner Scott Dennis.
Dennis said all caregivers must pass background, driving record and credit checks. He said Lawanivalu went through that process and passed, but he wasn't sure when the woman began working for the company.

Lawanivalu is due back in court March 4. She is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail, Wagstaffe said.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder and Editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized influencer, speaker, and expert in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community Worldwide. The ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 4,000 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
You are reading original content +Bob DeMarco , the Alzheimer's Reading Room