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Former guardian stole guns, money from Tampa Bay seniors, court records show

Traci Hudson, 53, was already accused of swindling $500,000 from a man in her care. Now, she’s facing 17 more criminal charges stemming from her treatment of three seniors.
Robert Moore, left, and son Ryan Moore
Robert Moore, left, and son Ryan Moore [ Courtesy of Ryan Moore ]
Published Jul. 1
Updated Jul. 1

A former court-appointed guardian already accused of stealing more than $500,000 from a man she cared for is facing 17 more criminal charges stemming from her treatment of three Tampa Bay seniors.

Traci Hudson, 53, stole 10 guns from an 84-year-old man for whom she acted as a court-appointed guardian and changed a court document to make it appear his possessions were worth less than their appraised value, according to an affidavit filed in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Tuesday.

“We were cheated out of the last year of my dad’s life because of this guardian,” said Ryan Moore, the son of Hudson’s former ward Robert Moore, in an interview Thursday. The son added that Hudson barred family members from visiting the elder Moore and interfered with relatives’ plans to bring him under their care.

In a separate case filed Tuesday, law enforcement accused Hudson of transferring nearly $35,000 from an elderly couple she cared for through a power-of-attorney agreement and using it on personal expenses such as food and car payments.

A detective wrote that he discovered the questionable payments while investigating a third case Hudson was arrested for in 2019, in which she swindled half a million dollars from a 93-year-old man and spent it on jewelry and Tampa Bay Buccaneers tickets. Hudson pleaded not guilty to the exploitation charge, and the case is ongoing.

Related: Power-of-attorney has the power to be abused in Florida

Hudson’s additional charges come amid a heightened awareness around the pitfalls of court-appointed guardianships sparked by the case of pop star Britney Spears. Spears is under a court order — called a conservatorship in her home state of California — granting control of her finances to her father. Last week, Spears testified for the first time about her conservatorship, saying the arrangement traumatized and exploited her.

In total, Hudson, of Riverview, faces one count of exploitation of an elderly person, 11 counts of grand theft and four counts of perjury in Moore’s case. She faces an additional exploitation of an elderly person charge in Tuesday’s other case, which stemmed from her treatment of Annette Balnicky, 79, and her husband Robert Balnicky, 98, who have both since died.

Traci Hudson
Traci Hudson [ Pinellas County jail ]

Hudson was booked into the Pinellas County jail on Wednesday and remained Thursday in lieu of $440,000 bail. Her attorney, Richard McKyton, said he only learned of the additional charges a day and a half ago and is in the process of looking into them further to “see what does make sense or doesn’t make sense.”

“The allegations are in direct conflict with the way she’s appeared to live 99 percent of her life,” he said, adding that she is a good person who spends most of her time caring for family members, including her sick father.

But according to Ryan Moore, Hudson took the opposite approach with his father, who spent his career in the Coast Guard and died last summer. The elder Moore’s involvement with Hudson began in 2016, when his wife, who at the time was under the care of family members outside of Florida, sought the help of a referral service for seniors, Ryan Moore said.

The service connected him with Hudson, who filed a petition in court saying that Robert Moore had dementia and had been exploited by a neighbor and several squatters who had been living in his Holiday home. She asked the court to appoint her guardian, and a judge issued an order appointing her as temporary emergency guardian in August and permanent guardian in September.

Robert Moore and wife Kay Moore, pictured in 1979.
Robert Moore and wife Kay Moore, pictured in 1979. [ Courtesy of Ryan Moore ]

Ryan Moore’s skepticism of his father’s care began almost immediately. Hudson didn’t tell him or any other family members about the move to make the guardianship permanent, he said. Otherwise, he would have stepped in to take on the role, he said.

Then, Hudson moved his father to a Pinellas County assisted-living facility but didn’t tell the family where. Ryan Moore said his mother had to hire a lawyer to track him down. When they found him and tried to visit, Hudson prohibited the mother and son from taking Robert Moore out of the facility for lunch or a drive and from visiting him in his apartment in the memory care unit. Once, when Ryan Moore visited his father for his birthday, a worker, at Hudson’s instruction, threatened to call the police if he didn’t leave.

“Somebody with Alzheimer’s, the last thing they need to be is left by themselves,” Ryan Moore said. “And Traci wanted to leave him by himself.”

Related: Britney Spears, Netflix’s ‘I Care A Lot’ put guardianship abuse in spotlight

He also watched his father’s physical condition deteriorate. He wore baggy pants held up by a makeshift belt made out of a clothes hanger and boots with torn soles.

What led to the criminal investigation was how Hudson managed Robert Moore’s possessions, records show. She hired an appraiser to value his possessions, which included a car, scooter and 13 guns, according to the criminal affidavit. She sold two of them to a gun store and her ex-husband sold a third to another shop. Another three she left at a pawn shop. Hudson retrieved the other seven guns, but the affidavit doesn’t specify what she did with them.

The appraiser valued Moore’s possessions at $8,250. However, Hudson forged and altered the appraisal report before submitting it to the court, according to the affidavit. She deleted any mention of the guns as well as personal items including a work bench, flat screen TV, and fishing poles and reels. And she changed the total value of his possessions to $1,100.

Ryan Moore said he asked Hudson about the guns at one point, and she told him they’d all been stolen except one that had been found at a crime scene and was being stored in a police evidence room. The only thing he has from his father’s house is a box of photographs, he said.

After Hudson’s arrest in 2019, she resigned from all of her guardianship cases, including Robert Moore’s. The court appointed a new guardian that allowed Robert Moore to move to Oklahoma to be under the care of his daughter there.

Hudson’s arrest came as a relief, Ryan Moore said, but it was also bittersweet. He feels conflicted by the thought that Hudson could be separated from her own father like he was separated from his.

“Just imagining my dad sitting there day after day for years wondering where his family is, whether he’s going to get out of there ... It’s really frustrating, but at the same time I have to be forgiving of that,” he said.

“My main thing is I don’t want that to happen to anyone else.”