Housekeepers stole $400K from dementia-stricken widow: feds

A pair of housekeepers swindled more than $400,000 from an elderly South Carolina widow with dementia, federal prosecutors said.

Gerald Maxwell Harrison, 53, and Elizabeth Robin Williams, 55, pleaded guilty to defrauding the unidentified, now-deceased victim while isolating her from family and friends after being hired as caregivers in February 2014, the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina announced Wednesday.

The pair and another woman, Donna Graves, then made unauthorized transactions after gaining access to her finances, ultimately depleting the woman’s savings, pawning her jewelry and setting up businesses in her name — including one that sold handbags online, federal prosecutors said.

The trio also “maxed out” at least one of her credit cards and stole the woman’s federal benefits, court documents show.

Graves and Williams first met the victim — who has since died — at her residence at a senior citizen community in Indian Land, South Carolina, according to an indictment obtained by the News & Observer.

They were hired in February 2014, and by October 2015, the pair had hired an armed security guard to “protect” her while monitoring and controlling “her interactions with other people,” according to the indictment.

Williams and Graves also falsely accused the elderly woman’s brother of trying to gain control of her finances and ultimately got him removed as her power of attorney, prosecutors said.

The woman’s brother contacted police, but the trio had already moved his sister to an apartment in Charlotte and later to a home in Mint Hill, North Carolina, the indictment states.

The victim’s health started failing in early 2016, leading Harrison, Williams and Graves to contact a friend of hers who lived out of state. Williams later told the woman’s friend she couldn’t find her checkbook and credit cards when she came to take the victim to a New York nursing home, where she later died in December 2016, prosecutors said.

After leaving for New York, Harrison tried to sell the woman’s South Carolina home, which was fraudulently transferred to him, according to the indictment.

The scheme was ultimately uncovered when a “concerned relative” reported it to law enforcement officials, Justice Department spokeswoman Lia Bantavani said.

Harrison and Williams have pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen property. They face a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines.

Charges against Graves are still pending, federal prosecutors said.

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