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    Worker accused of bilking woman

    Authorities say the nursing assistant was charging a 102-year-old woman $100 to $150 to do her shopping.

    By ROBERT FARLEY

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 3, 2001


    PALM HARBOR -- A nursing assistant at St. Mark Village was arrested Friday and charged with bilking thousands of dollars from a 102-year-old woman in her care.

    According to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, Jacqueline Willey, 40, of Holiday, was charging the elderly woman $100 to $150 to do shopping trips for her. She was charged with exploitation of the elderly.

    The victim, whose name was withheld by the sheriff's office, is a resident in the assisted-living center at St. Mark Village, a continuing care retirement center in Palm Harbor.

    Ed Hutfilz, president of St. Mark Village, said the matter came to light when a family member of the resident contacted the staff about several checks written to a staff member.

    Hutfilz said administrators confronted Willey, who said she had received some funds from the woman, but maintained she had done nothing improper. Since St. Mark policy bans any financial transactions between staff members and residents, Hutfilz said, Willey's employment was terminated. Administrators also called in law enforcement authorities to investigate.

    Pinellas County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Marianne Pasha said investigators interviewed the 102-year-old resident, who said Willey did some shopping for her, to buy personal items such as soap and shampoo.

    Investigators said the resident wrote out a series of $200 checks to Willey from Dec. 3, 1999, to Dec. 16, 2000. While some purchases were made, little change was returned to the woman, Pasha said. The amount of money taken was about $6,000, according to the affidavit.

    When interviewed, Willey told investigators she kept the leftover money as a fee for doing the shopping, Pasha said. Willey also said one of the checks was a Christmas gift from the woman. The resident told investigators she never intended any of the checks to Willey to be a Christmas gift, Pasha said.

    Though investigators noted the victim is extremely hard of hearing, Pasha said, they also said her mental alertness was very good for her age. Pasha said the woman was embarrassed that she had been taken.

    Willey was released from Pinellas County Jail on her own recognizance Friday afternoon.

    Hutfilz said this was the first time any staffer has ever been discovered taking money from a resident at St. Mark.

    "We do everything we can to prevent that sort of thing," Hutfilz said. "All you can do is immediately act upon it."

    Hutfilz noted that transportation is provided for residents to do shopping. If someone is not capable of shopping and no family members are available to do it for them, he said, there is a social services department that can accommodate them.

    - Staff writer Robert Farley can be reached at (727) 445-4185 or farley@sptimes.com.

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