On May 5, 2021 Donna Graves, 58, was sentenced to 97 months in prison and two years of supervised release for duping a elderly woman with dementia out of $300,000 in Charlotte, NC. The elderly woman had her credit card maxed out and had her personal documents forged.
Donna's co-conspirator Gerald Harrison, 54, was sentenced to serve three years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. A third co-conspirator, Elizabeth Williams, 56, previously pleaded guilty and is currently awaiting sentencing.
According to filed court documents, evidence presented at trial, and witness testimony, from January 2015 through September 2019, Donna, who was the ring leader of the criminal conspiracy, conspired with the other suspects to engage in a scheme to defraud an elderly victim.
The victim was a widow who lived alone and suffered from dementia and other physical and mental challenges. During the relevant time period, Donna and her co-conspirators exploited the woman’s vulnerabilities and defrauded the victim through a web of forged documents, lies, and deceptions.
Donna and Elizabeth provided housekeeping services for the victim through a business owned and operated by Donna. Over the course of the scheme, the co-conspirators isolated the victim from her friends and family.
They also induced the victim to give them power and control over her personal affairs, and fabricated a 'power of attorney' purporting to give Donna and Elizabeth control over the victim’s financial affairs.
Once the suspects gained access and control of the victim, they moved the victim out of her residence in Indian Land, South Carolina, first to an apartment in Charlotte, and later to a rental home in Mint Hill, NC.
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The suspects engaged in numerous illegal and unauthorized financial transactions that substantially depleted the victim’s money and property. Specifically, the co-conspirators emptied the victim’s bank accounts and used the money to pay for personal expenses, and “maxed out” at least one credit card in the victim’s name.
The co-conspirators also fraudulently transferred or attempted to transfer the victim’s Indian Land residence to themselves by creating a quit claim deed purporting to gift the residence to Gerald; they then attempted to sell the residence and intended to split the proceeds amongst each other.
They also pawned the victim’s jewelry, and they stole the victim’s federal benefits. Additionally, Elizabeth unlawfully used the victim’s money to set up other businesses in her name, including a business selling handbags online and a business selling weight loss-related services.
As a result of the fraudulent scheme, the co-conspirators defrauded the victim of approximately $300,000.
Once the victim’s money was depleted, the co-conspirators abandoned the victim, who was later moved to a nursing home in New York, where she passed away in large part due to the mental and physical deterioration she had suffered in the hands of the suspects.
On October 2, 2020, a federal jury convicted Donna of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy.
Gerald was ordered to serve three years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, he pleaded guilty in May 2020, to wire fraud conspiracy, interstate transportation of stolen property, and money laundering conspiracy.
In addition to the prison terms imposed, the judge also ordered the suspects to pay $298,407.85 as restitution, jointly and severally.