OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. -- An Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office investigator is giving more insight into the arrest of a Navarre woman for allegedly defrauding a 99-year-old woman out of over half-a-million dollars.
The sheriff’s office arrested 45-year-old Sheena Russell Wednesday night. She's charged with theft over $100,000, organized scheme to defraud more than $50,000 and elderly exploitation.
Russell is out of jail on $60,000 bond.
They say the money she took from the elderly woman was used on mortgage payments, a car, several vacations and more.
The investigation began six months ago with a call from the victim’s
brother after he noticed some things wrong and missing from his sister's
“In this case, I did not see anything going back to the victim," Michael Kruger, senior investigator with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said. "It was going to the suspect only.”
The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office says Russell met the woman while waitressing at a Fort Walton Beach restaurant.
who knew the victim and her late husband for a number of
years...started doing errands for the victim after her husband passed
away," deputies said in a Facebook post.
From March 30, 2020, to September 22, 2021, investigators say Russell stole $582,647 from the woman's trust and bank accounts.
According to deputies, $132,543 went to paying off her mortgage, buying a vehicle and funding trips to Walt Disney World, Pigeon Forge Tennessee, the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, Washington, D.C. and Utah.
Other expenses were used for personal day-to-day purchases, including shopping and restaurants.
“It’s very sad because these elderly people are being taken advantage of," Kruger said.
Channel 3 went to the address listed on Russell's jail records Thursday afternoon to get her side. A man answered the door, asking Channel 3 to leave.
While the sheriff’s office says the woman didn’t give Russell consent to withdraw or transfer her money, Russell allegedly told investigators it was a joint business venture.
Unfortunately, Kruger says the victim in this case isn’t alone.
"Really we saw a big uptick [of elderly exploitation] during COVID," Kruger said. "I think a lot of that had to do with people being stuck at home, unable to talk to other people. And a lot of the elderly people that don’t have any other relationships, these people calling them over the phone become a friend, they become a family member."
say the elderly woman now lives out-of-state in an assisted living
facility. They hope she can continue to help them with the investigation
and prosecution of this case.