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Woman accused of stealing thousands from Hernando man with dementia

BROOKSVILLE — Amy Hemmelgarn befriended the elderly man in the early stages of dementia in the fall and made quick work of his bank account, police say.

The 37-year-old with a lengthy arrest record took thousands of dollars from the 83-year-old Cloverleaf resident, Brooksville police Chief George Turner said.

"She just really took advantage of the guy," Turner said. "Luckily, his family members showed up in time before he was cleared right out."

On Friday, Hemmelgarn was arrested during a traffic stop in Brooksville and charged with exploitation of the elderly and uttering a forged instrument, according to a news release from the Brooksville Police Department.

Police had been looking for Hemmelgarn since December, Turner said.

The investigation began in early November after a family member of the man reported suspicious amounts of money missing from his bank accounts, he said.

Hemmelgarn made numerous withdrawals using the man's bank card during the month of October, Turner said. She also persuaded the Cloverleaf resident to give her cash for a phony paycheck for $1,542 she fashioned from a check featured in a newspaper advertisement, he said.

That the ploy worked is a testament to the man's deteriorating mental acuity, Turner said.

"Anyone else who would have seen that check would not have believed it was real," he said.

Surveillance video from automated teller machines shows the man standing with Hemmelgarn during some of the transactions, Turner said. It's unclear how much she stole from him and how much she persuaded him to give her under false pretenses, Turner said.

Hemmelgarn is charged for taking an unspecified amount of money more than $100 and less than $20,000 — a third-degree felony, Turner said.

She remained in jail Monday in lieu of $30,000 bail.

Hemmelgarn has been arrested more than a dozen times in Florida — most of those in Hernando County — for charges including drug possession, petty theft, battery, and aggravated assault, records show.

She was convicted of burglary in Hernando County 1996. In 2000, she was sentenced to a year in prison for obtaining oxycodone through fraud. And in 2006, she was convicted and sentenced to 14 months in prison for fleeing from Hernando deputies and drug possession.

Hemmelgarn's arrest Friday wasn't the first time Brooksville police stumbled upon her as a wanted woman. In December 2008, she was picked up while walking along Ponce De Leon Boulevard when police saw she was wanted for failing to appear in Hernando court for drug charges.

In April, she was arrested by Hernando deputies on a cocaine possession charge and sentenced to eight months jail minus time served, records show.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431.

Woman accused of stealing thousands from Hernando man with dementia 03/22/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 22, 2010 10:00pm]
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