ST. GEORGE – A 50-year-old woman was arrested Thursday for allegedly forging 40 checks and stealing $140,000 from an elderly couple she was caring for.
Officers were called to investigate a fraud incident after an 86-year-old man reported that his caretaker, Jayda Peterson Kaumans, of St. George, had been forging checks and stealing money from him, St. George Police Officer Terrance Taylor wrote in his probable cause statement supporting the arrest.
The man told officers Kaumans had been a caretaker to both him and his wife for the last several years and that he had trusted Kaumans to the point that she was reconciling the couple’s bank accounts and paying bills using their home computer and QuickBooks program.
The man discovered Kaumans had been editing and manipulating the Quicken ledger and had been printing out checks to herself and forging his signature, Taylor said in the statement.
After extensive research, officers discovered a total of 40 checks Kaumans had printed out to herself, forging the victim’s signature and depositing the money into her own accounts, Taylor said. The 40 checks – each over $1,500 – totaled $140,000.
“Numerous documents were obtained as evidence,” Taylor wrote in the statement, “and it clearly showed the Quicken ledger had been edited.”
On Thursday, officers conducted an interview with Kaumans, who acknowledged her role in being the caretaker for the man and his wife, Taylor said. Ultimately, Kaumans confessed to having printed the checks out to herself without the man’s permission and having stolen the money.
The suspect was in a position of trust and confidence, Taylor said, and she knowingly, by deception, obtained the victim’s funds with the intent to permanently deprive the vulnerable adult of the possession of his money.
Kaumans was arrested and charged with 10 third-degree felonies for forgery and one second-degree felony for the exploitation of a vulnerable adult.
Kaumans was booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility on Thursday with bail set at $60,000. On Friday, 5th District Judge G. Michael Westfall ordered Kaumans’ bail reduced to $10,000. She has since been released from custody.
Research shows that as many as five 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.
As financial exploitation of older adults becomes 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 as well as 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 a recent financial arrangement; 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 someone is hired to help out in an older adult’s home, it should be ensured that the person has been properly screened with criminal background checks. 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.
- To learn about preventing elder abuse, neglect or exploitation, or to obtain a free copy of Legal Guide 55, call 877-424-4640
- A digital copy of “Protect Your Pocketbook: Tips to Avoid Financial Exploitation” 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
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