Saturday, November 18, 2023

Attorney General Bonta Announces Conviction in Placer County Elder Abuse Case

— California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced securing guilty verdicts against a Placer County woman for committing financial fraud against her elderly mother. Defendant Betty Ann Engelbrecht stole more than $500,000 from her mother's bank account and was convicted today of two felony counts. The investigation and prosecution of this case was handled by the California Department of Justice (DOJ). Financial exploitation and fraud is the most prevalent — but one of the least reported — forms of elder abuse. According to the National Council of Aging, in nearly six out of ten cases of elder abuse, the abuse is perpetrated by family members.

“All too often, our elder citizens are made victims of abuse and fraud by those they should be able to trust the most — their own family,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Not only is this a cruel betrayal of trust, it can wreak havoc on the health, mental health, and financial safety of our seniors. Today’s conviction should send a strong message: The California Department of Justice will not tolerate abuse or crimes targeting our state’s elders. I am grateful to my team of investigators and prosecutors who work hard every day to safeguard and empower California’s senior citizens.”

DOJ's investigation revealed that Engelbrecht was given Power of Attorney (POA) to manage the finances of her elderly mother, who was diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease. Between 2013 and 2017, while acting as her mother's POA, she transferred more than a hundred thousand dollars from her mother's bank accounts into her own, and spent the vast majority for her own benefit, leaving almost no funds for her mother's continued care and treatment.

Yesterday, after a four-week trial in the Placer County Superior Court in Auburn, Engelbrecht was found guilty of two felony counts of grand theft from an elder. Engelbrecht’s sentencing hearing is not yet scheduled. 

Each year, millions of elderly Americans fall victim to some form of financial exploitation. According to estimates, nearly $3 billion is lost annually due to elder fraud and scams.

DOJ's Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (DMFEA) works to protect Californians by investigating and prosecuting those responsible for abuse, neglect, and fraud committed against elderly and dependent adults in the state, and those who perpetrate fraud on the Medi-Cal program.

If you believe you have been the victim of elder abuse, or if you know or suspect a case of elder abuse, we urge you to report it to the DMFEA by:

DMFEA receives 75% of its funding from HHS-OIG under a grant award totaling $87,038,485 for federal fiscal year 2024. The remaining 25% is funded by the State of California. The federal fiscal year is defined as October 1, 2023 through September 30, 2024.

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