Last month, 47-year-old Michael David Rickey of Hannibal, Missouri, was charged with felony financial exploitation of an elderly person.
Lt. Andy Binder of the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department said an 88-year-old woman paid Rickey $8,500 for a concrete driveway. Rickey laid an asphalt driveway instead.
Rickey's been prosecuted in multiple Missouri counties, including a 2012 case brought by Attorney General Chris Koster's office. Investigators are not sure if there are other victims, according to Lt. Binder.
“We believe he’s committed crimes in probably five different states,” he said. “He’s been charged and convicted by state attorney through this criminal organization that specifically targets the elderly.”
It is a felony offense if a person knowingly—by deception, intimidation, undue influence or force—obtains control over the elderly or disabled person's property, with the intent to permanently deprive them of that property, if the person is older than age 60.
“When there’s an egregious amount of money being spent, for very shoddy work, or very questionable work, that becomes a crime,” Binder said.
Diana Beard gave a man over $5,000 to rebuild her back porch, put a new roof on the garage, and install electrical outlets. Diana said it cost her more every time he showed up.
“I paid him four checks. Every time he came out he asked for a check. If I get mad then I don’t cry,” she said.
The quality of the work was so poor she had to pay someone else to fix it. The elderly lose about $16 billion every year to exploitation. Adding to Diana's initial frustration is the fact that the contractor was on a list provided by the St. Louis County Older Residents Program. Diana said she notified the agency.
“They took him off as soon as I called. They immediately took him off and they’ve got a record on him now,” Beard said.
No police report had ever been filed on the guy and he met other requirements, so he was cleared for the list, according to Diana.
Medi-Nurse is well aware of the risks. The company provides private duty nurses for seniors. And they are paying attention, according to Pat Cook RN.
“We have clients we've cared for, for a number of years. And we become the eyes and ears for the family that are not present,” Cook said.
Seniors most at risk are those with health issues. And surprisingly, research shows victims can be college educated, financially sophisticated and friendly. Victims don’t like to talk about the crime when it happens, Binder said.
“One in 44 cases that deal with financial exploitation of the elderly is not reported, so it is an extremely underreported crime,” Binder said.
If you have been the victim of financial exploitation, you’re encouraged to contact law enforcement. If you have elderly relatives and friends, discourage impulse spending and warn them of the risks of fraud.