Michael Anthony “Tony” Stewart, 44, opted for a two-day bench trial instead of a jury trial, and on Wednesday afternoon he was found guilty of felony financial exploitation of the elderly. His victim was an 86-year-old woman who had a flooded basement.
He charged the woman $5,000 for pumping water out of the basement. Then he turned around and hired someone to do the half-day’s work for $200, said Ron Holliday, the assistant Buchanan County prosecutor.
Scott Dougherty, owner of St. Joseph Waterproofing, was called as an expert witness by Holliday. He testified pumping water out of the basement would have been a mere $200 job.
The crime was the next day, Stewart came back and told the woman she had mold in her basement and said it would cost $20,000 to remove it, Holliday said.
The evidence shows the woman didn’t have that kind of money and the defendant misrepresented the problem, saying she’d have to tear the house down if she didn’t take care of it, said Circuit Judge Patrick Robb. It’s a material fact that the defendant also misrepresented to another witness, and this wasn’t disputed in the testimony, Robb said.
The judge proceeded to find Stewart guilty as charged.
Stewart remains free on a $25,000 bond. The judge ordered a background investigation and set sentencing for 11 a.m. Friday, March 23.
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Business owner guilty of financial exploitation