11/25/2015 2:19:21 PM
As a result of an investigation by the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau and Apple Valley Police Department, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has charged a Richfield insurance agent, Gloria Hidalgo, age 52, with using her power of attorney designation to steal tens of thousands of dollars from a client who suffers from dementia.
Hidalgo is charged with one felony count of theft by swindle over $5,000.
According to the criminal complaint, Hidalgo met the victim through her work as an insurance agent. In June 2014, after the victim was treated at a local hospital for injuries due to a fall, Hidalgo obtained the victim’s signature on a power of attorney document, which appointed Hidalgo as her health care agent. As a result, Hidalgo gained access to the victim’s bank accounts and money.
Within months, Hidalgo discontinued the services of an in-home professional health care agency, established a video surveillance system in the victim’s apartment and had telephone calls forwarded from the victim’s telephone to her cell phone. After the victim suffered another injury from a fall, Hidalgo moved the victim away from her Apple Valley apartment to a Richfield long-term care facility.
The criminal complaint alleges Hidalgo purchased a computer and television for herself with the victim’s funds. She also withdrew more than $5,000 in cash after the victim was placed in a nursing home. Between June and November 2014, Hidalgo stole nearly $33,000 from the victim, including more than $26,000 in cash withdrawals from the victim’s bank accounts.
“This case is a reminder that there are individuals in our society who look for opportunities to manipulate and take advantage of the vulnerable,” said Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “We must all watch for signs of fraud and contact law enforcement with any suspicions. I commend the diligent work of the officers and agents from the Apple Valley Police Department and Commerce Fraud Bureau who worked on behalf of this victim.”
“We are seeing a noticeable increase in the number of cases we prosecute of financial exploitation of vulnerable adults,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. “Many of them are for larger amounts of money than this case, but this is one of the most egregious cases where the victim was practically held hostage by Ms. Hidalgo. This was a good investigation by everyone involved and we will vigorously prosecute the case.”
This case illustrates many of the common traits committed by those who financially exploit the elderly, which include isolating the victim from family or friends, abusing a power of attorney, taking control of the victim’s finances and taking advantage of joint bank accounts. Commissioner Rothman urges family and close friends to maintain open communication and have more than one trusted person help oversee a senior’s financial affairs, especially if there is cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.