Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Caregiver sentenced for theft from 87-year-old

Beverly Joyce Kegley
After a Johnstown woman was sentenced to jail time, community service and probation for stealing nearly $50,000 from an 87-year-old woman over a 13-month period, the Cambria County Area Agency on Aging is urging the public to keep an eye out for and report suspicions of elder abuse and exploitation.

Beverly Joyce Kegley, 49, was working as an independent home health care provider when the thefts occurred, according to West Hills Regional police.

In a criminal complaint, police said Kegley was caring for a senior citizen in Southmont when she allegedly made unauthorized purchases on credit cards, unauthorized ATM withdrawals and overcharged for her services.

After the thefts were discovered by the victim’s tax preparer, the Cambria County Area Agency on Aging conducted a forensic audit, which revealed:

• Overpayment for services from April 2015 to April 2016 totaling $21,552.

• Unauthorized ATM withdrawals totaling $10,285.

• Unauthorized charges at Wal-Mart for $2,822.

• Unauthorized charges on a Chase credit card totaling $4,092.

• Unauthorized purchases on a Citi credit card for $10,730.

• Unauthorized transactions on a Sheetz Chase card for $446.

 On May 30, Kegley entered a guilty plea to two felony theft charges.

On July 11, Judge Tamara Bernstein sentenced Kegley to 45 days to two years in the Cambria County Prison, followed by 48 months of county probation.

In addition, Kegley was ordered to complete 160 hours of community service, have no contact with the victim and repay $38,928 in restitution, along with court fines and costs.

M. Veil Griffith, administrator of Cambria County Agency on Aging, said the department has a protective services unit whose purpose is to protect the elderly against abuse, self-neglect and financial exploitation.

Investigators are trained to handle these types of cases, she said, which are becoming more frequent as the region’s drug problem makes targets of elderly people who typically have their own homes and savings accounts.

An interest in the mail, specifically credit card statements, is often the biggest tell-tale sign that an elderly person is being taken advantage of financially, she said.

“That’s always the first red flag,” she said.

“They want to get to the mail first.”

Usually, an elderly victim who is being financially exploited by a caregiver is probably not being taken care of properly, Griffith added.

They may be isolated or miss regular doctor appointments, for example.

Although family members often are the most frequent perpetrators against the elderly, Griffith said other caregivers – as in Kegley’s case – are possible suspects.

It’s often safer to hire caregivers who are employed through personal care agencies that must follow state guidelines and require background checks for employees rather than independent caregivers, she said.

Aside from being careful in who you trust, Griffith added that it’s important for the elderly to balance their finances and keep a close eye on their bank statements.

“The sooner something like this can be detected, the less loss there is,” she said.

To make a report of suspected elderly abuse or financial exploitation, which can be done anonymously, contact the Cambria County Area Agency on Aging at 535-5595.

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Caregiver sentenced for theft from 87-year-old