ST. GEORGE – The St. George Police arrested a St. George woman Tuesday for the exploitation of a vulnerable adult she was caring for at an assisted living facility in St. George.
Lorrie Deanna Smith, 41, was arrested and charged with one third-degree felony for exploitation of a vulnerable adult, three third-degree felonies and one class-A misdemeanor for unlawful use of a finance card and theft.
According to the probable cause statement filed in connection with the arrest, an 88-year-old woman reported having two of her credit cards stolen while living at Ridgeview Gardens, an assisted living facility for the elderly in St. George.
One of the stolen credit cards was used approximately 15 times between May 11-15, totaling charges of $2,963.14. The other stolen credit card was used approximately 9 times from May 5-10, with charges totaling $576.29.
St. George Police Officer Brandon Dunbar retrieved security camera footage from several local businesses where the stolen credit cards were used. He then took the footage to the manager of Ridgeview Gardens to see if he recognized the person shown using the cards.
The manager identified the woman to be Smith, an employee at Ridgeview Gardens, who was a Certified Nurses Assistant and caregiver to the victim.
Smith was arrested at her home at 781 N. Valley View Dr. in St. George and booked into Washington County’s Purgatory Correctional Facility. According to booking information, Smith’s bail stands at $21,943.
In Washington County alone, Smith has faced criminal charges on several occasions dating back to April 19, 2010, with various dispositions, some convictions. Nonetheless, Ridgeview Gardens Administrator Spencer Eaton said that the facility does conduct criminal background checks on their employees. Eaton declined to comment on Smith’s arrest.
Research shows that as many as five million older adults are victims of financial exploitation each year, costing seniors an estimated $3 billion annually. Utah seniors are exploited out of at least $7.7 million each year, with the average victim losing just over $85,000.
But these types of crimes can and should be prevented.
As financial exploitation targeting older adults continues to become more prevalent in the United States, Utah Adult Protective Services has joined a nationwide campaign to encourage older adults and their families to address the issue and get informed about the warning signs and resources available to help prevent abuse.
There are several signs of financial exploitation to look out for, including financial activity that is inconsistent with an older adult’s history, confusion about recent financial arrangement, a caregiver or beneficiary who refuses to use designated funds for necessary care and treatment of an older adult and an older adult who feels threatened by a caregiver who is seeking to control their finances.
The Utah Department of Human Services recommends that if you hire someone to help you in your home, ensure that they have been properly screened with criminal background checks completed. Ask for certifications when appropriate.
“Financial exploitation can be prevented if people know the right questions to ask and where to turn for help,” Mary Twomey, Co-Director of the National Center on Elder Abuse, said. “Although it is a sensitive issue and one that can be difficult to broach, it is critical for families to address, and there are many useful resources available to guide them through the process.”
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
- To learn about preventing elder abuse, neglect or exploitation or obtain a free copy of Legal Guide 55 | Telephone: 877-424-4640
- A digital copy of the financial exploitation brochure is available online
- Toll-free statewide phone number for reporting elder abuse, neglect or exploitation | Telephone: 800-371-7897
- Five County Association of Governments Aging Services Division | Telephone: 435-673-3548
- Utah takes active role in preventing elder abuse, neglect, exploitation
- Utah joins nationwide campaign to help prevent financial exploitation of seniors
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