http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2013/07/19/two-guilty-two-in-court-for-elder-fraud


Pleasanton Weekly

News - July 19, 2013

Two guilty, two in court for elder fraud

Half-million stolen in one case; senior signs over home in 2nd case

by Glenn Wohltmann

With one recent Pleasanton case of senior abuse closed, another is continuing to wend its way through the court system.

On July 12, an Auburn woman was allowed to go free after serving 10 months in jail for working with her husband to steal nearly half a million dollars from his 86-year-old mother.

A jury in Hayward found D'Arsi Champlin, 48, guilty of 11 felonies: five counts of grand theft, five counts of theft from an elder, and one count of receiving stolen property.

Prosecutor Connie Campbell said Champlin also agreed to sell the house in her name, which court documents say was largely paid for with money from the victim. That could bring the victim about $160,000 when the remaining mortgage is paid off.

Earlier, the victim's son was sentenced to 60 months in prison for 12 felonies. Campbell said Mark Champlin, 61, continued to deny his guilt and showed no remorse.

Champlin was supposed to pay his mother's bills, which were chiefly her room and board, some small necessities, doctor co-pays and prescriptions.

Instead, a police report said, he used the account as his own, renting cars, paying for a vacation, withdrawing cash and paying down the principle on his wife's home. He also paid $1,600 a month for his medical insurance and bought his mother gifts using her own money, the report said.

He now faces a restitution hearing on Aug. 29.

The victim is a resident of Eden Villa Assisted Living on Mohr Avenue, where she's lived for the last five years due to mobility issues.

That case was relatively straightforward because the victim was "sharp and mentally alert," according to the report.

The other case, involving the owner of a home on Neal Street, is more complicated because the victim "had difficulty maintaining a linear conversation and could not articulately describe what she wanted done with her assets when she died," a police report said.

Matthew Messier, 37, a former captain in the Pinole Police Department, was charged with three counts of attempted grand theft, four counts of elder abuse, one count of forgery, one count of criminal conspiracy, one count of registering a fraudulent document, and a count of practicing law without a license.

His wife, Elizabeth Regalado, was charged with the same crimes.

The victim was 82 when the pair, her neighbors, were arrested. Messier drafted documents using an online service that included a quitclaim deed to the woman's home, power of attorney naming himself as trustee and sole beneficiary when she dies.

The woman's home is worth between $500,000 and $700,000; she also has safe deposit boxes containing savings bonds, cash and gold worth more than $50,000.

The case came to light through Adult Protective Services. An examination showed the victim is incapable of making financial decisions for herself.

In Pleasanton Superior Court on Monday, Sandy Laffins, a notary public, testified she met with Messier and the victim three times. Laffins told the court the victim appeared competent and recognized her when they met up at Raley's, where the victim was accompanied by Regalado.

Laffins also testified that the victim read all the documents carefully, and that, as a notary, she only reads the first page of each document.

The documents showed the home was going to Messier as beneficiary, although it said it would be entered into the National Registry of Historic Places, which the woman apparently interpreted as meaning it would be used as a historic site. She had told others she wanted to leave the home either to the city of Pleasanton or the state of California.

The police report says the victim had "impaired problem solving and reasoning skills." In a previous hearing, the woman appeared confused about what she had signed and was unable to name Messier.

Messier and Regalado filed for bankruptcy in 2010, listing $1,500 in household goods, although they told police investigator Keith Batt they had about $4,000 worth of antiques and collectibles.

The case was continued to Aug. 19, with Batt set to testify.

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