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Largo woman charged with exploiting disabled client for thousands of dollars

LARGO — Peggy Friend was supposed to take care of her mentally disabled client and help him pay his bills, authorities said.

But it turns out Friend wasn't so friendly after all.

Police said she bilked the Largo man out of more than $20,000 over a 16-month period in 2007 and 2008.

Friend, 61, was arrested on a warrant Wednesday, charged with exploitation of a disabled adult. She was arrested at her home at 453 Rosery Road NW at 3:30 a.m., and is being held at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $20,000 bail.

According to the warrant, Friend offered to care for 52-year-old Mark Easter, who is bipolar and suffers from other mental illnesses. Easter let Friend come live with him in June 2007 so she could assist him with "paying his bills, scheduling his medical appointments and taking his prescription medicines," the warrant said.

Instead, she used Easter's credit cards without his permission and spent more than $3,000 on dental work, $2,000 for furniture, $6,000 on cookware, $1,500 on a big-screen television, $900 for a handgun and $900 for a refrigerator.

She also spent "thousands of dollars for emergency care for her pet cat," the warrant said.

The warrant does not give the exact amount that Friend allegedly stole, but said it was more than $20,000 and less than $100,000.

Easter fired Friend and contacted the Largo Police Department in October 2008 after he reviewed his credit card statements and noticed the transactions. He also confronted Friend, who said "she planned on paying him back somehow in the future," the warrant said.

When interviewed by police, Friend admitted to the purchasing the items and making numerous cash withdrawals.

Court records show that Friend was arrested in 2001 on charges of title fraud and grand theft, but those charges were later dropped.

Easter could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Largo woman charged with exploiting disabled client for thousands of dollars 07/01/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 9:23pm]

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