Police: Charges filed against local caretaker who allegedly took $200,000 from 82-year-old disabled man

ST. GEORGE — A local woman was charged Friday after investigators found that she had allegedly taken more than $200,000 from an 82-year-old disabled man she was reportedly paid $12,000 a month to care for.

Tara Lynn Hamilton, 44, of St. George, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, Oct. 11, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Tara Hamilton, 44, of St. George, was arrested Thursday and charged the following day with one second-degree felony count of exploitation of a vulnerable adult, according to the probable cause statement filed with 5th District Court.

The case stems from an investigation that began with an audit conducted on an elderly man’s financial records by Adult Protective Services that was then turned over to the St. George Police Department when investigators found suspicious activity on the man’s accounts.

At that point, detectives were assigned to investigate the case involving the possible exploitation of an 82-year-old disabled man by his caretaker, Hamilton. 

According to court documents, the financial audit conducted by investigators with Adult Protective Services revealed that from 2018 to 2019, Hamilton had allegedly taken more than $200,000 from the man she was caring for.

The man had a physical impairment that prevented him from using his arms, which significantly affected his ability to care for himself, provide necessities, carry out his daily activities or obtain necessary services. 

As such, Hamilton was in “a position of trust to the victim as she is his caretaker, and provides for his daily living needs,” according to the report.

The audit showed that during a seven-month period, between July 11, 2018 and Feb. 17, there were 17 checks totaling $57,800 made out to Hamilton, in addition to a number of checks written to Hamilton’s boyfriend and to her son that totaled more than $52,000. The combined sum of the checks amounted to around $110,200.  The audit also showed there were multiple ATM withdrawals that appeared suspicious to investigators. 

Stock image | Photo by Clarissa Leahy/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

During the same time period, they found that more than $67,220 had been withdrawn from the man’s account as well as transactions showing that cash was withdrawn during purchases at various retailers totaling nearly $7,130, not including the fees associated with the withdrawals and transactions.   

Auditors also discovered that nearly $16,000 was transferred from the elderly man’s account to her son’s account. 

The audit revealed a total calculated loss from the checks issued to Hamilton and her associates, combined with the ATM withdrawals and associated fees, the cash back purchases and account transfers amounted to nearly  $203,100. 

During conversations with an Adult Protective Services investigator, the elderly man said that Hamilton was responsible for his financial transactions and he had little knowledge regarding his finances.

Hamilton told police during an interview that she provided round-the-clock care for the disabled man for which she was paid $12,000 per month, or $124,000 per year. According to the report, the money paid to Hamilton was also supposed to be used to pay other caretakers when she was not at the house providing care.

While Hamilton allegedly admitted to police that she had a bank card issued to her from the man’s account, and that she had made withdrawals, written checks and received cash back on purchases using his accounts, she claimed “the money was compensation for what the victim owed her for care,” the investigator noted in the report. 

According to investigators, Hamilton also admitted to making withdrawals and receiving cash back on purchases while visiting other states when the victim was not present.

When questioned about the checks made out to her son and boyfriend, and the account transfers into her son’s account, Hamilton told police she did not have a checking account, so the checks made out to her boyfriend were cashed and the funds were given to her for payment of her services. She also said her boyfriend was compensated for the care he provided to the elderly man and said she had transferred funds into her son’s account to compensate herself for care, as she did not have an account of her own.  

The report also said that by Hamilton’s own admission, she was to be compensated at the rate of $124,00 per year. 

Even so, the elderly man suffered a financial loss of more than $200,000 over the course of seven months, and that Hamilton, “acknowledged the methods used to withdraw the money and indicated that she had facilitated and benefited from them,” the report states. 

Investigators found a huge discrepancy between the amount received by Hamilton and her associates and the amount she indicated the victim had agreed to pay her. They also found that she had used man’s funds “improperly and unjustly” to profit herself and her associates. 

The suspect was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility and was held on $50,000 bail. She was then released after posting bond. Hamilton is scheduled to make an initial appearance in 5th District Court Friday.

This is the second exploitation case reported this week, after a fraud ring that involved five individuals was exposed when police received reports that an elderly woman was being exploited. It was later discovered that the alleged ring leader had been released in 2017 after spending nearly three decades behind bars for murder. In that case, the elderly woman was taken for nearly $300,000.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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