ST. GEORGE – A 21-year-old Washington City man was arrested Monday for alleged fraud connected to a stolen credit card and exploiting a vulnerable adult.
St. George Police received a report from an independent senior living center Dec. 29, 2014, about a potential theft. A resident at the facility reported that his wallet had been taken and later returned, according to a probable cause statement written by St. George Police Officer K. Chamberlain.
An investigation discovered a credit card from the wallet had been used at multiple locations between the evening of Dec. 28 and early morning hours of Dec. 29. The card was used to withdraw up to $1,000 from an ATM at the Mountain America Credit Union on 3050 East and also for a purchase at an area business.
Surveillance footage from the Mountain America ATM and the living center was reviewed by the police. An employee of the living center also watched the footage and identified the individual alleged to be Roberto Maximillian Serrano, 21, of Washington City, also an employee at the center.
Chamberlain interviewed Serrano who denied allegations he had taken the wallet and used the credit card.
Serrano was later arrested and subsequently charged with two third-degree felonies for exploiting a vulnerable adult and unlawful acquisition of a finance card. He was also charged with various misdemeanors related to use of the theft and use of the finance card. According to Washington County Bookings information, bail was set at $14,779.
Serrano made bail and has been released from jail. He is scheduled to make an initial appearance in court Jan. 12.
Though the St. George area has its share of senior living centers, St. George Police Sgt. Sam Despain said, these types of crimes are not common. What’s unfortunate about the situation is that someone in a position of trust allegedly abused that trust and committed a crime, he said.
Last year a St. George woman working at another senior care center was arrested in a similar incident after allegedly taking credit cards belonging to an 88-year-old facility resident.
Research shows that as many as 5 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.
But these types of crimes can and should be prevented.
As financial exploitation targeting older adults continues to become 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 and 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 recent financial arrangements, 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 you hire someone to help you in your home, ensure that they have been properly screened with criminal background checks completed. 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.
St. George reporter Kimberly Scott contributed to this story.
- To learn about preventing elder abuse, neglect or exploitation or obtain a free copy of Legal Guide 55 | Telephone: 877-424-4640
- A digital copy of the financial exploitation brochure 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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