Man arrested for exploiting vulnerable adult; how to prevent elder abuse

ST. GEORGE – A 21-year-old Washington City man was arrested Monday for alleged fraud connected to a stolen credit card and exploiting a vulnerable adult.

St. George Police received a report from an independent senior living center Dec. 29, 2014, about a potential theft. A resident at the facility reported that his wallet had been taken and later returned, according to a probable cause statement written by St. George Police Officer K. Chamberlain.

Roberto M. Serrano, Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility, Utah, Jan. 5, 2015 | Photo courtesy of the St. George Police Department, St. George News
Roberto M. Serrano, Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility, Utah, Jan. 5, 2015 | Photo courtesy of the St. George Police Department, St. George News

An investigation discovered a credit card from the wallet had been used at multiple locations between the evening of Dec. 28 and early morning hours of Dec. 29. The card was used to withdraw up to $1,000 from an ATM at the Mountain America Credit Union on 3050 East and also for a purchase at an area business.

Surveillance footage from the Mountain America ATM and the living center was reviewed by the police. An employee of the living center also watched the footage and identified the individual alleged to be Roberto Maximillian Serrano, 21, of Washington City, also an employee at the center.

Chamberlain interviewed Serrano who denied allegations he had taken the wallet and used the credit card.

Serrano was later arrested and subsequently charged with two third-degree felonies for exploiting a vulnerable adult and unlawful acquisition of a finance card. He was also charged with various misdemeanors related to use of the theft and use of the finance card. According to Washington County Bookings information, bail was set at $14,779.

Serrano made bail and has been released from jail. He is scheduled to make an initial appearance in court Jan. 12.

Though the St. George area has its share of senior living centers, St. George Police Sgt. Sam Despain said, these types of crimes are not common. What’s unfortunate about the situation is that someone in a position of trust allegedly abused that trust and committed a crime, he said.

Last year a St. George woman working at another senior care center was arrested in a similar incident after allegedly taking credit cards belonging to an 88-year-old facility resident.

Financial exploitation

Research shows that as many as 5 million older adults are victims of financial exploitation each year, costing seniors an estimated $3 billion annually. Utah seniors are exploited out of at least $7.7 million each year, with the average victim losing just over $85,000.

But these types of crimes can and should be prevented.

As financial exploitation targeting older adults continues to become more prevalent in the United States, Utah Adult Protective Services has joined a nationwide campaign to encourage older adults and their families to address the issue and get informed about the warning signs and resources available to help prevent abuse.

There are several signs of financial exploitation to look out for, including financial activity that is inconsistent with an older adult’s history, confusion about recent financial arrangements, a caregiver or beneficiary who refuses to use designated funds for necessary care and treatment of an older adult and an older adult who feels threatened by a caregiver who is seeking to control their finances.

The Utah Department of Human Services recommends that if you hire someone to help you in your home, ensure that they have been properly screened with criminal background checks completed. Ask for certifications when appropriate.

“Financial exploitation can be prevented if people know the right questions to ask and where to turn for help,” Mary Twomey, co-director of the National Center on Elder Abuse, said. “Although it is a sensitive issue and one that can be difficult to broach, it is critical for families to address, and there are many useful resources available to guide them through the process.”

Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

St. George reporter Kimberly Scott contributed to this story.

Resources

  • To learn about preventing elder abuse, neglect or exploitation or obtain a free copy of Legal Guide 55 | Telephone: 877-424-4640
  • A digital copy of the financial exploitation brochure is available online
  • Toll-free statewide phone number for reporting elder abuse, neglect or exploitation | Telephone: 800-371-7897
  • Five County Association of Governments Aging Services Division | Telephone: 435-673-3548

Related posts

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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25 Comments

  • ladybugavenger January 6, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    That is just shameful

  • Hmmmm January 6, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    VERY SAD… He is a VERY CARING HARD WORKING COMPASTIONATE Co-Worker..SAD that ALL So Utah
    Healthcare companies make the Conscious decision to pay CNAs such a low wage!!!! SAD the public doesn’t understand when putting Mom Dad Grandparents into a facility like we work in. Paying $3300 for a studio Up 2 $9500 per MONTH RENT for a 3 room 1 1/2 bath… But pay us $10 a Hour… SHAME ON THEM!!!! NO Excuce 4 what HE DID.. But it would have never happened if we(CNA’s) were paid Accordingly!!! Again NO EXCUSE.. BUT SHAME ON THEM!!! (All So Ut Health Care)…

    • Evil Twins Mommy January 7, 2015 at 8:36 am

      Your argument carries no weight with me there are alot of people out there making less than 10 dollars an hour and I see them ripping anybody off. how dare you try the oh poor me I’m only making 10 dollars an hour garbage.. You don’t like what the job pays then get another job welcome to Southern Utah wages. You don’t like then LEAVE

  • Evil Twins Mommy January 7, 2015 at 1:05 am

    Yeah I’m sure he will be here to make his court date. LOL

  • Caligirl January 7, 2015 at 4:58 am

    How terrible! To do this to an elderly person or any person for that matter, is just shameful! You were hired to care and protect these people and you used that position to target and commit crimes against them! ……… this is just sad!

  • sagemoon January 7, 2015 at 8:47 am

    Scum bag.

  • Koolaid January 7, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Keep him in jail until he’s old

  • mary January 7, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    Anyone in that kind of facility should have their wallets locked in a safe box when not in use .
    The facility should also educate the elderly residents of the need for extra caution and NOT to live naively .
    Thieves are pig dung but they are everywhere and
    Everyone should learn early in life NOT to be naive .

    • Shelly January 8, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      It’s true, unfortunately. I worked as a nurse in a similar facility years ago and a co-worker (Registered Nurse also) had her purse stolen. If it isn’t locked up, there is usually someone around who will grab it. I kept my wallet locked up in my car. Sad, but true.

  • Senior's daughter January 8, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    My mother lives there and no one has even been informed about this incident. I know he is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but you would think the facility would want to protect their other residents and let them know.

  • Me January 8, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Funny how it didnt mention that there is no physical evidence to prove his guilt. Lies. He is INNOCENT! And he has worked at this facility for years with no complaints and he is a very compassionate caregiver if they were to interview the residents amd actually do their job. The police lie to the media. To make themselves look better and look good on the job.

  • disgusted January 8, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    Seriously!? What part of “He was seen on camera and identified by an employee of the facility” don’t you understand!?!? He is 100% guilty! Not everyone who smiles at you is a perfect person. Just because he’s a compassionate caregiver doesn’t mean he’s innocent and everyone else is lying… face it your “friend” is a liar and a theif! Not his boss, co-workers and the police officers! He needs to rot in prison for taking advantage of a sweet resident and making the rest of us feel unsafe at our job/home/parents home! Period! And to the earlier comment about your sad wage… shape up or ship out!! If you don’t like the job or pay… quit! Trust me you’d be doing the rest of us a big favor! Being a CNA( or working at a facility like this) is about caring for others and improving the quality of their lives! How dare any of you people condone and defend him after what he did! You are just as bad as what he did and in my opinion you should be fired as well! Thank you and have a nice day!

  • Roberto is a mexican January 9, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    I know him and his … wife. She is the (ME) in comments above. Low life scumbags who bring drugs in from Cali. TO SENIORS MOM Yes they don’t tell you anything because they don’t want you to know they don’t drug test at Robertos work and believe me they don’t care! You might want to mention it to the owners and ask why they don’t drug test because if they did when he started working there they would have known he was a druggie and never let him around the seniors in the first place. If my mom was there I would demand a drug test for everyone before they are allowed to work with elderly. GOOD RIDDANCE
    Ed. ellipsis.

  • Senior's Daughter January 15, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    So what happened at his court date? Are you going to update your story?

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic January 20, 2015 at 7:27 am

      Thank you for your patience, SD – here’s our reporter Mori Kessler’s answer: Robert M. Serrano is slowly making his way through the court system. He posted bail and has a court appearance on Feb. 2. Not much more has taken place at this point.
      ST. GEORGE NEWS | STGnews.com
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

    • sagemoon January 20, 2015 at 9:00 am

      I wouldn’t mind an update on this story, either, as the case proceeds. I think it’s important for the community to know people don’t tolerate abuse (in any form) of the elderly.

  • Senior's daughter January 22, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    Thank you. I look forward to your follow up after his court appearance on Feb. 2nd.

  • Cathy February 21, 2015 at 1:02 am

    What happened at the court date on Feb. 2nd? I understand the victim passed away recently. I’m so sorry to his family for their loss. He was a nice man.

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic February 26, 2015 at 10:53 am

      Currently, Cathy, a preliminary hearing is scheduled in the case against Robert M. Serrano for March 9 at 9 a.m. in 5th District Court in St. George.
      ST. GEORGE NEWS | STGnews.com
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

      • sagemoon February 26, 2015 at 11:48 am

        Thanks for the update.

      • Cathy February 27, 2015 at 12:25 am

        Thanks for the update.

  • RL July 22, 2015 at 5:36 am

    What was the outcome of the March 9th Preliminary Hearing? I can’t remember seeing a follow up on this.

    • Mori Kessler Mori Kessler July 22, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      Roberto pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony count of the exploitation of a vulnerable adult on March 23, 2015. Additional charges were dropped.

      He was given 36 months probation, ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution and to write a letter of apology to the victim.

  • sagemoon August 19, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Looks like this guy got booked into jail for domestic violence charges on August 18th.

  • sagemoon September 28, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Back in jail on September 26th for DUI. This guy has got some issues!

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