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In two Pasco cases, three arrested in crimes against two elderly mothers

One 75-year-old woman suffers from an advanced state of dementia and lives in an assisted living facility.

Another 80-year-old woman, who is mentally incompetent, remains at home but must be cleaned and fed.

The two women have nothing in common except for this sad fact: Both had grown children who were arrested Wednesday, in separate cases, accused of stealing thousands of dollars from their elderly, infirm mothers.

In the first case, Darlene Edwards, 48, is accused of cashing her 75-year-old mother's Social Security checks for herself, instead of paying the bills for her mother's care. The $760 monthly checks were diverted from March 2008 to this April, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said.

Edwards, who had power of attorney over her mother's estate, racked up $10,000 in debt to the facility, the sheriff's report said.

Edwards told authorities she was aware she was behind in the payments to Westbrook Manor Assisted Living Facility in Zephyrhills, and that her brother in California was supposed to help cover expenses but never did.

Someone from the facility contacted the state Department of Children and Families, who called the Sheriff's Office.

Edwards, of 26680 Players Circle, Apt. 12 in Lutz, was charged with exploitation of the elderly. She remained at the Land O'Lakes jail Thursday in lieu of $1,500 bail.

In the second case, Michael B. Smith, 52, is accused of using $6,900 from the checking account of his 80-year-old mother to buy bicycles and give money to friends.

The Sheriff's Office said Smith had been withdrawing the money since Feb. 23, and he continued to write checks even after he learned May 6 that the account was overdrawn.

An official from Wachovia Bank froze the woman's accounts and contacted authorities.

Authorities also determined that Smith and his ex-wife Donna Lou Vaughn, 51 — who was the mother's caregiver — failed to clean or feed the woman.

Smith and Vaughn, both of 5814 Chapman Drive in New Port Richey, were arrested Wednesday.

Smith is charged with neglect of the elderly and exploitation of the elderly. He is being held in lieu of $7,500 bail at the Land O'Lakes jail.

Vaughn is charged with neglect of the elderly. She is being held in lieu of $2,500 bail.

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at (813) 909-4609 or cspencer@sptimes.com.

In two Pasco cases, three arrested in crimes against two elderly mothers 05/14/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 14, 2009 9:01pm]
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