A woman accused of swindling hundreds of thousands of dollars from multiple seniors in her care pleaded guilty to multiple theft and perjury charges Monday and was sentenced to 8½ years in prison and ordered to pay more than half a million dollars in restitution.
Traci Hudson, 55, pleaded guilty to 11 counts of grand theft, five counts of exploitation of an elderly or disabled person and four counts of perjury. Her sentence departed from the recommended minimum of about 10½ years in prison. Under sentencing guidelines, Hudson could have received up to 135 years.
Hudson will serve 20 years of probation after she is released from prison, though she can ask for early termination if she completes her restitution payments sooner. In total, Hudson was ordered to pay $581,767.43 in restitution — the amount prosecutors said she stole from Pinellas seniors. She had been a court-appointed guardian for some of them.
Hudson paid $100,000 up front, which covered her restitution to five of the six victims and also included $59,756.19 to the estate of the other victim, Maurice Myers.
She was arrested in that case in 2019. Pinellas County sheriff’s investigators said she had taken more than $500,000 from Myers, who died at age 93, just under a year after Hudson became his caretaker.
Staffers at Grand Villa of Pinellas Park had asked Hudson to take on power of attorney for Myers and become his health care surrogate after his daughter died unexpectedly in 2017. Hudson ran a professional guardianship business and cared for other residents at the facility.
In 2021, Hudson was arrested on 17 additional theft, perjury and exploitation charges. Authorities said she stole 10 guns from 84-year-old Robert Moore after serving as his court-appointed guardian and took $19,600 worth of checks from Annette Balnicky, 79, and her husband Robert Balnicky, 98, with whom she had a power-of-attorney agreement.
In April, Hudson was charged with two more counts of exploitation of an elderly or disabled person.
In one of the cases, she gained power of attorney over an 88-year-old woman. Hudson wrote checks to herself from the woman’s account, totaling about $9,000, according to court records. The documents do not name the victim. Hudson attempted to become the woman’s court-appointed guardian but was arrested before the process could be completed.
In the second case, Hudson stole more than $1,800 from a victim under her guardianship in the form of guardian fees and an unauthorized check, according to court documents.
During Monday’s sentencing, Barbara Wotherspoon, the Balnickys’ daughter, gave a statement as she attended court via Zoom.
“You not only stole their meager possessions and savings but also their dignity, causing them explicable agony and sadness in their final years,” Wotherspoon addressed Hudson.
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In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Assistant State Attorney Rene Bauer, who prosecuted the case, said the State Attorney’s Office was glad they were able to collect immediate restitution for five of the six victims and get a prison sentence for Hudson, followed by probation while she completes her payments.
“Overall, we’re very satisfied with the resolution,” Bauer said.
Hudson’s attorney, Richard McKyton, said his client took accountability by pleading guilty to the charges.
“Usually in situations like this, you’re seeing that person at their worst possible situation,” he said. “There’s a lot more to Traci Hudson than just what you heard in the courtroom today.”