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Financial abuse costs elderly billions

As Boomers age, scammers find targets ripe for taking

By Herb Weisbaum ConsumerMan
msnbc.com contributor

NBC NEWS.COM http://www.nbcnews.com/id/41992299/ns/business-consumer_news/t/financial-abuse-costs-elderly-billions

Mickey Rooney took on a new role last week, as an advocate for abused seniors. His personal story of betrayal was painful to watch. The 90-year-old actor bravely shared the shame and humiliation of elder abuse with members of Congress and the entire country.

“For years I suffered silently, unable to muster the courage to seek the help I knew I needed,” he said.

Rooney told a Senate subcommittee a family member withheld food and medicine and meddled in his personal finances. If this could happen to him, Rooney said, it could happen to anyone. He urged lawmakers to do something about the growing problem — and do it now.

Financial abuse of the elderly is a serious problem, even though we rarely hear about it. A study done by MetLife Mature Market Institute in 2009 estimated the financial loss from abuses to be at least $2.6 billion a year. But that’s just an educated guess.

“Right now, we truly don’t know how much exists,” says Professor Pamela Teaster, who chairs the department of gerontology at the University of Kentucky and is on the board of the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. “We believe it is an incredibly under-reported problem.”

The MetLife study, which Teaster helped write, found that only one in six cases of elderly financial abuse is ever reported. Based on new information, she says, that figure now appears to be conservative.

“We have hit some hard financial times and we’re seeing the exploitation increasing,” Teaster said.
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The opportunities for abuse of the elderly are almost limitless. The exploitation can take place at a care facility where a staff member is able to cozy up to a resident to get jewelry, money or power of attorney. In other cases, family members believe they are entitled to their parents’ or grandparents’ money and find ways to take it.

Con artists also prey on older people, because as a group they control a tremendous amount of this country’s wealth. And in many cases, poor health — both physical and mental — makes them easy targets for financial predators.

Suspect elder abuse?

What should you do if your suspect elder abuse? Report your concerns. Remember: Most cases of elder abuse go undetected. Don’t assume that someone has already reported a suspicious situation.

To report suspected abuse in the community, contact your local adult protective services agency. Call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or check for your state’s reporting number here.

To report suspected abuse in a nursing home or long-term care facility, contact your state specific agency. To find the listing, click here.

Source: National Center on Elder Abuse

“It can be a complete stranger, a dishonest telemarketer or someone who just befriends an older person, either through the phone, Internet or some happenstance meeting,” explained Bob Blancato, national coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition. “It’s sad to see them take advantage of these vulnerable people.”

One family’s tragic story
Katsu and Charles Bradley of Tacoma, Wash., owned their home and had set aside a nice nest egg for their retirement years. When they could no longer care for themselves because of advanced forms of dementia, the family hired Norma Cheesman to be a live-in caregiver.

The Bradleys’ daughter, Caroline Moye of Seattle, tells me Cheesman “took everything” her parents had worked and saved for their entire lives.

“She thought she had found the goose that laid the golden egg,” Moye said. “And in a matter of 10 months she made my parents homeless and penniless.”

The prosecutor in King County, Wash., has charged Cheesman with various felonies, including theft and forgery. Court papers say within months of moving in, Cheesman convinced 86-year old Charles Bradley to give her power of attorney, name her as beneficiary of his estate and disinherit his wife.

Cheesman is also accused of facilitating a reverse mortgage on the Bradleys’ house (which the couple owned free and clear) as a way to fill their bank account with a large sum of money which she could then steal. The prosecutor claims Cheesman literally guided Katsu Bradley’s hand to sign her name on the loan documents because she was too infirm at the time to sign her name herself.

Court papers say Cheesman then had Mr. Bradley withdraw huge amounts of cash from the couple’s savings and persuaded him to buy the home she was living in.

In all, the Bradleys’ estimated cash losses are put at more than $300,000. And the home they lived in for 45 years went into foreclosure. Charles and Katsu Bradley died within a month of each other in 2008 with just $374 in the bank.

Somehow Cheesman, the trusted caregiver, was able to do all this without the family finding out. To this day Caroline Moye finds that so hard to believe.

“I called my mom and dad every single day.” Moye said. “It’s not like we weren’t involved with my parents. But she pulled the wool over our eyes and was methodical in taking every single penny that she could.”
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Norma Cheesman has still not answered to the charges. She did not show up for several court hearings and no one knows where she is. A few weeks ago, a judge issued a warrant for her arrest.

It will take a village to tackle this problem
Experts who deal with elder abuse say it takes place in every community. And it’s sure to get worse as baby boomers move into their senior years.

“I think we need to prepare ourselves for a huge wave of more and more victims in the next five to 10 years, unless we train our law enforcement and prosecutors how to deal with it,” said Paul Greenwood, head of elder abuse prosecutions unit at the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

Greenwood says the hardest part of his job is finding out about abusers in the community. That requires people to report suspected abuse and for police to treat it like the serious crime it is.

California requires certain groups of people — bankers, clergy and health care providers — to report anything that might indicate financial exploitation of a senior.

Greenwood believes every state should have such a mandatory reporting law. He also believes every major prosecutor’s office in the country should have at least one person dedicated to financial elder abuse. He calls it a cop-out to blame budget constraints for not doing this.

“You’ll never meet a prosecutor who doesn’t prosecute DUIs for lack of money,” Greenwood said. “They wouldn’t dare not to prosecute them.”

When he talks to judges, Greenwood tries to explain that financial abuse of a senior is a violent crime, because it can have a devastating effect on that person’s life. Someone in their 70s or 80s may never recover from the financial loss.

“I do believe that in some instances it shortens their lifespan,” Greenwood told me. “I’ve seen cases where in two or three months after the crime, the victim seems to give up the will to live. In one case that was devastating, the victim committed suicide because he felt there was no reason to keep living.”

Pamela Teaster with the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse says we, as a society, need to make it clear that we will not tolerate this crime.

“We need to treat our elders better,” she said. “The bad guys need to be caught and punished.”

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So What is Financial Exploitation?

In a sentence, Florida’s exploitation law (FSS 825.103) states that when someone maliciously takes the property of an “elderly person,” they are committing exploitation. That’s the essence of the law.

But there is also an important requirement: Within this law, an “elderly person” is defined as someone 60 years of age or older who is suffering from the infirmities of aging to the extent that their ability to adequately care for and protect themselves is impaired. The law states that the elderly person must suffer a physical or mental infirmity. Therefore, exploitation is based primarily on infirmities or disabilities and not deception.

This is why exploitation is not fraud and why it can be much more devastating and offensive. Fraud is generally defined as deception that is carried out for the purpose of achieving personal gain while causing injury to another party. Exploitation requires more than that. It requires that the victims suffer disabilities that make them more vulnerable. And when the victim is more vulnerable, the victim impact is far worse.

To compare exploitation to fraud would be like comparing robbery to larceny. If you told a police officer that robbery is the worst type of larceny, he or she would correct you and say that they are two different crimes. Larceny simply means the taking of another’s property, while robbery requires the taking by force or threat. In the same sense, exploitation and fraud are also two different crimes. While scammers focus on things that their victims want with deception, exploiters focus on things victims need through the dependency caused by their infirmities.

So if you’re going to walk away with one thought from my book, make it this,
“Scammers prey on greed while exploiters prey on need.”

If you understand that concept, you’re probably one step ahead of those around you who misunderstand the crime.

Regards!
Joe Roubicek

Big Mouth Sami

Summary of a case involving a little guy with a big mouth arrested for exploitation of the elderly…and then solicitation to commit murder.

July 2000:

joe-pesciSami Jourdak was a 71-year-old vertically challenged person with an irritating high voice and he sure talked a lot.   The first time we met, he reminded me of some of the small, talky characters played by the actor Joe Pesci, but with white hair. He seemed harmless enough, though, and there was something sad about the guy.

Our paths crossed when he exploited a 94-year-old blind woman named Hillary. She was alert, trusting and courageous in many ways.

At the time, the two recently had met at her church and quickly developed what seemed a mutually beneficial friendship. He would take her out to lunch a few times a week and she would pay. He was tight on money and she loved to get out of her house, so it worked out quite well. It all seemed harmless enough.

But looks were deceiving and Jourdak was a dangerous man. Twelve years earlier he had been arrested and convicted for sexual assault on a child and spent two years in prison for that crime. This apparently harmless old man with the non-stop squeaky voice was a predator.
When they went out to lunch, Jourdak was slipping Hillary’s ATM card from her purse, making withdrawals, then replacing it without her knowing. It was too easy.

But after two weeks and more than $5,000 in withdrawals, Hillary’s home health aide caught Jourdak sneaking the ATM card back into the purse. When the aide approached him about it, he became very threatening and assured her that if she spoke to Hillary, she would regret it.
Instead, the aide went to the police and I became involved.

When I first approached Hillary, she was not only emotionally hurt but also angry that Jourdak had violated her trust. She agreed to wear a “wire,” a secret recording device that all cop-and-crime movies seem to include for some reason. Hillary said she would question him about the money when he came to visit her the following day.

Jourdak arrived right on time expecting to take Hillary to lunch, but instead she confronted him about his theft. My partner and I listened to the conversation from inside an unmarked police car parked in the neighbor’s driveway.

When confronted by Hillary, Jourdak admitted everything, but insisted that he took her money so that no one else could. He claimed that he was only trying to protect her. His defense was lame, we moved in and he was arrested.

I thought that this case had ended, but Jourdak had other ideas…..
He was furious at the home health aide because he suspected that she had tipped off the police. So he wanted her dead, just as he had threatened.
This time, Jourdak was more than all talk.

Jourdak’s cellmate was a “tough guy,” so to speak. He was someone with a violent background related to drugs and weapons violations. So Jourdak approached him about hiring a hit man to kill the home health aide for a few thousand dollars.

Jourdak said that, with the witness out of the way, he could both get revenge and probably beat the charges against him. His cellmate said that he would see what he could do.

Less than two weeks later, after Jourdak had bonded out of jail, he met with a stranger at a diner in Fort Lauderdale. His cellmate indeed had arranged a rendezvous with a hired killer.
The hit man was a big, sleazy-looking middle-aged man who dwarfed Jourdak’s small body. Jourdak spent a full hour with him and wouldn’t stop talking, of course. That was his nature. He said that he wanted the health aide killed and didn’t care how. He also explained that he had been taking Hillary’s ATM card and everything had been going just fine until the aide had butted in and ratted him out to the police.

In the end, Jourdak agreed to pay $3,000, but only after the killing. The hit man said that he wanted the money before the murder. Jourdak agreed and they went their separate ways, planning to meet the next day to exchange the payment.

Jourdak drove home to his apartment, but the hit man drove to the rear parking lot of the diner where the rest of us had been listening from behind tinted windows in unmarked cars. The hit man was actually an ATF agent and I, along with several other detectives and agents, had been monitoring the meeting from the start.

Sami Jourdak simply was a victim of very bad luck.  His cellmate was a tough guy all right, but also a confidential informant for an ATF agent. He had reported Jourdak’s intentions to his agent, who in turn had called me.

Those of us working the case decided that it would be prudent to arrest Jourdak quickly. I found him on that same day in his apartment complex doing his dirty laundry.

I arrested him again, this time for solicitation to commit murder. He cried like a baby when he was loaded into the back seat of a squad car and carried off to jail.

The hit man in this case had been an impostor, yes – but so was Jourdak, and he gave perfect example of how predators who appear completely harmless can be the most dangerous predators of all.

by Joe Roubicek, copyright 2010 Coral Springs

Exploitation by The Mailman

Originally Posted on January 2010:

* Important note for the reader:   I wrote this “short” case file in 2004 but did not publish it in my book. For this reason I changed only the names of all parties involved. But the case is factual, based on public record, and all excerpts from suspect statements are quite accurate. ~Joe Roubicek ~

 Exploitation by the Mailman:

exploitation by mailman“How long have you been a mailman?”
“Eleven years.”
“And how long have you known Jenny Williams?”
He shifted in his seat.
“The entire time. I comforted her through the death of her husband several years ago and been her companion since.”
“So then you spend a lot of time with her?”
“Detective, I spend time with her every single day, even holidays. We are very close.”
I leaned forward from my chair toward the table that separated us and pointed at him for effect.

“Martin Feinberg said that you’re a liar and he’s been her friend and accountant for forty years. You’re a thief who’s taking advantage of a 90-year-old woman.”

I was more aggressive with Mike Steele, a 35-year-old postal worker, because I knew that he was less likely to clam-up, fearing the loss of his job if the postal inspectors found out. He didn’t know that a postal inspector turned him in.

“Detective, he paid her bills for her and that’s it. Sometimes I would come by after he left and she’d be visibly shaken. I don’t know why but she didn’t like him and wanted me to handle her business affairs. You wonder about me? I’m wondering about Martin Feinberg. I mean did he use undue influence on her?”

As expected, Mike Steele was getting defensive and talking away. He pushed a pile of paperwork on the table toward me and continued.

“Look, I’ve got stuff. These are the originals. Does he have stuff?”  The “stuff” that he was referring to were the usual testamentary documents that exploitation suspects parade during statements; a power of attorney, a quit claim deed, and a new will making the suspect the sole beneficiary of the estate. This particular victim, Jenny Williams, suffered Organic Brain Syndrome for years and I had the medical records to prove it. Steele was acquainted with Jenny and her husband over the years and became very friendly with her after his death.

Only two months before giving his statement, Steele had his name placed on all of Jenny’s bank accounts in place of Mertin Feinberg’s, and she signed a new will making him the beneficiary of her estate. Feinberg found out, called the postal inspectors, who reported the problem to me. I obtained Jenny’s medical records and a statement from her long-time family doctor verifying that she suffered Organic Brain Syndrome for the past two years, expert testimony that she lacked capacity when signing.

This case was “open and closed” so to speak, but the interesting parts were the actions taken by the attorney and banker involved in the case, and the self-incriminating responses by Steele in his statement.

“Mike, how was Jenny mentally, I mean do you believe that she can think for herself?”
“Yes sir, she’s very smart, very quick. Okay, sometimes she would tell me the same story four or five times in a row so she’s forgetful, but I’m forgetful. Sometimes I forget what day it is. I think that she is totally sound.”

“Where you present when she signed this will two months ago?”
“No I wasn’t. I was told that I should stay away because of something called undue influence.”
“Who told you that?”
“Her attorney. He went to her house to have her sign it.”
“Mike, she’s already got an attorney, she’s had the same one for many years. Are you sure this wasn’t your attorney?”
“No it was hers, she wanted a new one. I just helped them to connect. Again, I’ve only done what she wanted me to do.”

Steele could word the attorney issue any way he liked, but the truth was that Jenny was not capable of choosing an attorney. So how could this attorney have believed that he was acting in a legitimate manner? When I interviewed him, he simply insisted that it was his personal opinion that Jenny had capacity. The recorded fee that he charged was reasonable, but in a scenario like this he could have been paid much more under the table for his services.

After running into this “assisting attorney” scenario many times, I wondered why they were not held accountable like the suspect, for exploiting or assisting with the exploitation of victims. A prosecutor once told me that attorneys have an “umbrella of protection” that makes prosecuting them very difficult. We agreed that it would be easier if the law specifically recognized and included those that assist in exploitations.

Before the statement was concluded, Steele answered questions related to his activities at Jenny’s bank.

“Mike, how much of Jenny’s money did you take from the bank?”
“I didn’t take any money, she did. One day I withdrew a thousand dollars and brought it to her like she told me to do, but all the other times I simply drove her to the bank and she took it out.”

As indicated earlier, common sense was not that common with bankers in these days. The attorneys for the banks were so fearful of the repercussions of refusing to give a customer their money that they lost all common sense when advising on how to deal with suspicious scenarios of this type.

Steele brought the victim to her bank with the testamentary documents in hand, he sat her down in front of a banker and proceeded to have his name put on all of her accounts, replacing the name of Martin Feinberg. The banker said that Jenny appeared to be completely confused but Steele had the power of attorney, forcing the name addition to the account. Steele brought Jenny home and then returned immediately to the bank to withdraw a thousand dollars. The employee called Jenny at home and she had no recollection of being at the bank, or adding Steele to her accounts. She told the banker not to give him any of her money, but the banker did, and later testified that she believed she had to because his name was already on the account.

(Instances like these had me wondering if bankers also suffered mental disabilities.)
Mike Steele was arrested for exploitation and grand theft and his career as a postal worker ended. With the help of more attorneys, his name was removed from Jenny’s accounts and her old will was reinstated. There was nothing brilliant about his scheme and no surprises, after all stealing is what thieves do, but the lack of ethical responsibility of the professionals around him made this thing happen, and that’s something for us all to be concerned about. Whether financial exploitation of an elder occurs via guardian abuse, caretaker abuse, abuse by a family member, a stranger, or even the mailman, there is usually a professional of some type involved. This is why the Florida exploitation law was written in a manner that specifically includes others who conspire and assist with the commission of this crime as additional potential offenders.

~by Joe Roubicek Copyright 2004 Coral Springs

One Bad Lemon!

(Originally Posted on 9-26-10)

Point:   Harmful lack of communication between government agencies:

Ninety-four-year-old Vera Cordes laid helplessly in her nursing home bed watching a stocky woman dressed in white, a nurse maybe, going through her purse on the nightstand.

senior woman patient lying in bed at hospital wardThe room was dark and a sleeping pill had left Vera too drugged to protest, but she knew what she saw at the time. This was in April 1994 and she had just arrived at the Manor Oaks nursing home in northeast Fort Lauderdale after a lengthy hospital stay for a broken hip.

The next morning Vera checked her purse, didn’t notice anything missing and chalked it up to the medication and her imagination.

Months later, Vera finally returned home to discover that several of her bank checks had been stolen at some point – and cashed for a total of more than $700 by someone named “Gwenda Lemon.” Another $5,000 also had been charged on one of Vera’s credit cards to pay for things she knew nothing about.

She reported the incident to the nursing home management and they, in turn, did their own investigation to find that Gwenda Lemon was a former employee who had quit in May. The managers filed a police report with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.   But it was never assigned to a detective for a follow-up investigation.

In October 1994, a 72-year-old man who was paralyzed from the waist down checked into the Vencor Hospital in downtown Fort Lauderdale. His name was Roy Wilson and he was scheduled for a lengthy hospital stay. While being admitted, he handed his wallet, checkbook and other valuables to the admissions secretary to be put in a safe. She was a pleasant, stocky woman, a new employee.

Roy returned home in late November and, like Vera, went through his bank statements. He found that, while he was in the hospital, a woman called Gwenda Lemon had been cashing his checks. He hadn’t realized that they were missing from his checkbook. He was devastated because she cashed 15 of them for more than $17,000.

But he had no idea that Lemon was also the secretary who took his property at the hospital. Had he known, he would have alerted them. Instead, Roy reported the crime to police in Pompano Beach, the city where he resided. A patrolman took the report and filed it as a routine check fraud incident and then, of course, the paperwork soon was lost among a dozen other cases sitting on an overworked detective’s desk. Crimes against persons, things like rape and robbery and homicide, understandably receive priority over check fraud.

Over the next several months, Roy lived each day confined to a wheelchair in his home, a difficult but routine existence for an elderly man. But the routine ended in March when a stranger knocked on his door. Roy opened it up to see a stocky woman dressed in a white nurse’s uniform – a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing.

The woman said that she was a social worker sent by Vencor Hospital to make sure that his recovery was going well. Roy felt uneasy because her visit was unexpected, so he asked for identification. She gave him her driver’s license and the infirm old man recognized her name immediately.

“You’re Gwenda Lemon? You stole my checks! You ripped me off!”  He didn’t have a chance to say anymore.

Lemon snatched her driver’s license out of his hand, spun him around in the wheelchair and pushed him through the doorway into his kitchen. Then she pulled out a can of mace and sprayed his face while spinning the wheelchair around and around.

The mace brought him instant pain and Roy screamed out as it burned his eyes, nose and skin. His chest tightened up in a reflexive action as he gasped for air in complete panic and disorientation.

He begged her to stop, but she wasn’t through yet.  She reached down, firmly grabbed the bottom of the wheelchair and flipped Roy over, head first, onto the kitchen floor, with his wheelchair landing on top of him. Then Lemon maced him again.

He laid whimpering as she ripped the phone out of the wall and walked out of the kitchen, leaving Roy alone on the floor.

He later said that he had waited motionless, fearing another attack, wondering if she would kill him in the end. He could hear her going through paperwork in his office, but he didn’t care. Roy listened intently as she walked back towards the kitchen and braced himself for another attack, but it never came. Lemon had found what she wanted and left.

Despite the mauling and his disabilities, Roy managed to crawl to another phone in the house and call police. They arrived in moments and rushed him to the hospital. He would be okay physically, but never the same mentally – always afraid in his own home.

A home invasion robbery report was made and a Pompano Beach detective got on the case immediately. Because Lemon had taken back her driver’s license, Roy would have to pick her out of a photo line-up. Then the detective could get an arrest warrant and hunt her down.
The following day, the detective showed Roy the photos of Lemon and five other women who looked similar to her. But there was a problem because the other women were too similar in appearance. Roy picked the wrong photograph.

Afterwards, he complained that three of the women could have been the same person, but it was too late. Lemon’s photo could not be presented to him legitimately again in another line-up.

Lemon had not eased up at all since her vicious attack against Roy.  She had stolen another seven checks from him that day. Within a week, she had used them to make payments toward her car loan, electric and other bills.

A Pompano Beach detective soon called and asked Lemon in for an interview. She agreed, but also stopped by a furniture rental store on the way to the police station. She still felt brazen enough to use one of Roy’s checks to make a rental payment.

The detective had hoped to squeeze a confession out of this very bad Lemon. He would need it. The prosecutor had already refused to file charges after Roy’s bad identification.
Sadly, Lemon gave the investigator nothing to hang her with.

Despite the detective’s efforts to convince her that she would only be admitting the obvious, she looked him in the eye and insisted that she didn’t do it. Someone had been impersonating her, Lemon claimed.

She walked out of the police station a free woman that day. The detective soon shifted his attention to other cases involving those rapes and robberies and homicides. Lemon just moved on to new victims.

Four months passed and, in the first week of August 1995, Hurricane Erin bore down on the southeast coast of Florida. The National Hurricane Center issued warnings, which resulted in a mandatory evacuation for the coastal areas of Fort Lauderdale.

A coastal resident named Mary who was in her 70s, checked herself into Vencor Hospital to avoid going to a local hurricane shelter. She never left.

During the elderly woman’s hospital stay, Lemon stole and cashed several of Mary’s checks for a total of $1,300. Mary became ill unexpectedly, though, and died before police could interview her. Although the death suspiciously coincided with her exploitation by Lemon, hospital medical records cited death by natural causes.

A week later, a 69-year-old woman suffering cancer checked into the same hospital. She would later testify that, when admitted for treatment, she had given her checkbook, food stamps, credit card and cash to the secretary in admissions for “safekeeping.” They had disappeared, of course. Lemon had stolen a total of $800 from this frail cancer patient.

Police reports were made for both victims, but the incidents were assigned as fraud investigations to two other detectives who handled such cases. I didn’t know about either one at the time.

Throughout this entire period, neither me nor any other cop knew that Lemon was listed as a suspect in multiple elderly exploitation cases in different local police jurisdictions and even within the same agency. She could be described as a “serial exploiter”- someone who exploits a number of elderly victims over time using the same method.

Lemon was a bold, shameless predator with an “in-your-face” approach that effectively victimized many helpless seniors. Unfortunately, a lack of communication between agencies enabled her to continue to prey on the elderly throughout Broward County.

Finally, however, Manor Oaks nursing home contacted me after managers there heard that Lemon was working at Vencor Hospital. They assumed that she already had been arrested for targeting Vera Cordis a full year earlier and wondered how she could still be working in the health care field.

As a result, I ran Lemon’s name in the FLPD computer and was shocked to find that she had several complaints against her from the nursing home and hospital. The hospital also advised me that a Pompano Beach detective had been asking about her months earlier. After contacting that detective, I was “off to the races,” so to speak.

I focused on obtaining positive identifications and statements from all the victims and, in two weeks time, I had an arrest warrant for Lemon on numerous counts of exploitation and check fraud. But I was disappointed that she wasn’t being charged with the home invasion of Roy Wilson. Roy couldn’t identify her and she naturally denied committing the crime.

Lemon had quit her job at Vencor Hospital by this time and so, while hunting her down, I tried to figure out a way to get her to admit the home invasion. This had to be done without scaring her into refusing to speak with me at all.

I came up with an idea and finally located her. She was, of all things, a patient in another hospital. Lemon was having a baby. The delivery went fine, but she had a slight fever afterwards and the doctor decided to keep her in the hospital for observation for a couple days.

Before I went into her room to interview Lemon, I spoke with the medical staff and verified that she was not under the influence of any medication that would affect her judgment. Then I walked in, introduced myself and advised her of the arrest warrant.

I assured her that she would not be taken into custody until she was out of the hospital and recovered. Lemon was calm and told me she had known that the police would be coming for her eventually. She was actually grateful for the delay in the arrest and agreeable to discussing the charges.

I decided that it was time to make my move.  “Gwenda, you seem like a decent person to me, but the prosecutor doesn’t agree. He’s the one who decides to charge, or not charge, you for the home invasion robbery of Roy Wilson. That’s the charge that you really have to worry about.”

She watched me intently and remained silent. And now the lies…

“I already have proof that you were there that evening. I had the wheelchair processed for fingerprints and yours were lifted from the bottom of it. What bothers me, though, is that Mr. Wilson has several prior complaints against him by prostitutes. It appears that he invites them into his home and then tries to assault them.”

She smiled a little and started shaking her head up and down. Bingo!  “Yes, I was there, but he attacked me. He would give me money to show him my titties, but then he wanted to touch them and I wouldn’t let him. He offered me more money and I said no, because I don’t go that far. I’m not that kind of person. Then he became angry and pulled out some mace and started spraying me all over!”

“A pervert, eh? So what did you do, spray him back?”  No, I didn’t. I just held up the couch pillows to try to block it and ran out of the house. I never sprayed him, I swear it.”
The lies worked.

Roy had no prior police complaints involving prostitution or anything else and Lemon’s fingerprints were never lifted from his wheelchair. I just had needed her to admit being there and now she had. And not only that. Lemon actually had given me a statement insisting that she was there.

The prosecutor was delighted and filed additional charges of burglary of an occupied dwelling and battery on an elderly person, two serious felonies.

I arrested Lemon on February 7, 1996. It was a “no bond” arrest, which meant that she should have been held in jail right through her trial dates.
But my cases just don’t end that easily.

Lemon’s attorney was granted a bond hearing and the presiding judge was the same woman that I had written about in an earlier chapter, Judge Susan “Let’ em Go” Lebow.
The hearing proceeded as bond hearings normally do. The prosecutor argued that the defendant should stay in jail because she was a flight risk and a danger to the community. The defense argued that I had tricked Lemon into giving me a statement and that she was actually an upstanding, peaceful citizen with a new baby.

Judge Lebow listened to both sides and ruled that my tactic of tricking Lemon into incriminating herself did not violate any constitutional rights, but she also ruled in favor of granting bond. Lemon bonded out the same week of her arrest. She was a free woman again and this time managed to avoid assaulting others.   At least, for several months.

On July 13, 1996, Lemon climbed into her car armed with a handgun and drove to a house in the tough northwest section of Fort Lauderdale. Her husband had been shot and wounded that morning during a dispute there. Lemon believed that the shooter was inside the home and she wanted revenge.

On arriving, she scrambled out of the car and fired several shots through the front picture window. Witnesses watched her throwing a tantrum and shouting obscenities on the front lawn before finally driving away. Two adults and several children were in the house at the time. Fortunately, they were not injured.

Lemon also didn’t show up for her scheduled court appearances and Judge Lebow finally issued a bench warrant for her arrest. This dangerous criminal was taken into custody in her home and that arrest at last stuck.

Lemon remained in jail until June 1997, when she plead guilty to a dozen felony charges. Judge Lebow had enough and sentenced her to eight years in prison. Justice was finally served.

FOLLOW UP

A year earlier, Vera Cordes was quoted on Lemon in the papers as saying, “She had a good time, didn’t she? The fact that she was out there doing it to other people, that’s what bothered me.”
But Vera died before Lemon’s final arrest. In fact, half of Lemon’s elderly victims were deceased by the time that she was sentenced.

In reality, justice is not swift and exploitation victims don’t live forever.
~ by Joe Roubicek, copyright 2010 Coral Springs