DOVER, N.H. (NEWS CENTER) — A woman from West Newfield, who pleaded guilty in a case of elder financial exploitation, was back in court Wednesday for a hearing to determine how much money she stole from her mother.
Donna Dell made nearly 600 transactions with her mother's money for her own personal use. Her mother, Geraldine Orser, had Alzheimer's disease and was unaware her life savings were being drained.
Dell twice tried to delay the court proceedings in her case by asking for a new attorney, then a continuance. After the judge denied both motions, Dell admitted the money she had stolen from her mother totaled more than $91,000.
"The fact that Ms. Orser had Alzheimer's makes this particularly egregious in my mind," said Asst. County Prosecutor Emily Conant. "She was a perfect victim, she had no idea this was going on."
While Dell was spending her mother's money going shopping and at Mohegan sun and Foxwood casinos, her mother was being cared for at Watson Fields, a private assisted living facility. When Dell stopped the payments her mother was forced to move out to a public facility, where she died at the age of 81.
"She provided herself with enough money to live the way that she wanted to live for the remainder of her life," Conant said, "and that was taken from her by her daughter and she was forced to live in a place she no longer called home."
For people who help seniors try to prevent financial abuse, details of the case come as no surprise.
"Financial exploitation is something that is insidious and can happen over a long period of time with no one knowing," said Katlyn Blackstone of the Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging.
In this case, Donna Dell was given power of attorney over her mother's finances. Blackstone says it's a good idea to have a second person involved when you hand over that authority, even to a loved one.
"The best thing to do is work with a financial planner, or go to your bank and ask for advice, call the agency on aging, call legal services for the elderly," she said. "Make sure you're taking the right steps."
The Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging runs a program called Money Minders. It helps seniors sort through their finances and helps them make decisions regarding their money. It's a free service. For more information, you can call SMAAA at 396-6500.