Ruling could set scary precedent in elder abuse, power of attorney cases
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A 92-year-old woman in Battle Creek says a neighbor she trusted has taken everything from her.
He was charged with embezzlement, but a Calhoun County judge says the man hasn't done anything criminal.
The ruling could have serious consequences for other embezzlement and elder abuse cases.
With our rapidly aging population, elder abuse is more of a problem now than ever before.
In this case, a man named Clint Stout is charged with embezzlement over $20,000.
According to reports, this all started in March 2010 just after the death of Elizabeth Armour's husband.
The Stouts were given power of attorney and they apparently took advantage of the power in short order.
Armour was moved out of her home the day after her husband's funeral, and into a series of retirement homes.
A police investigation turned up tens of thousands of dollars of questionable transactions and withdrawals from Armour's account--including $3,600 marked as "Cash for Elizabeth," which Armour told detectives she never received.
Additionally, $17,000 that Clint Stout placed into a personal bank account, even though the power of attorney clearly states Armour's funds "must never be mixed with your own."
When asked about the withdrawals, the detective says Stout "could not provide me with any reasonable explanation," and said he wished to speak with an attorney.
The judge who heard the case, however, wrote in his finding that "the court is not persuaded the actions of the defendant are criminal. Unless prosecution can show the power of attorney was obtained through some fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."
The judge cited one line in the power of attorney which reads "under no circumstances should my agents actions give rise to a criminal charge," something former probate judge Phillip Harter says is common with power of attorney.
Stout is due back in court April 24th for a pre-trial.
Our sources say most likely the Calhoun County Prosecutors Office will bring new charges against Clint Stout and possibly his wife as well.
The judge's finding could also be appealed, and the consensus from professionals throughout the investigation is the law would support the prosecution.
If appelate courts do hold up the ruling, it would set a nationwide precedent, making senior citizens an even more vulnerable population.
I-Team Stories[an error occurred while processing this directive]
What do you want to see?
If you have a story idea for the I-Team, you can contact us using the form below or by calling 269-388-4612.