Office of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.

February 26, 2002 Media Inquiries: Sean Caine 410-576-6357

Also admits to stealing $12,000 from two credit card companies

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today the conviction of a former Associated Catholic Charities caseworker for stealing over $73,000 from three of her vulnerable adult clients.. Dorothy Moore Williams, 49, pleaded guilty before the Honorable Joseph McCurdy to taking the money from her clients’ bank accounts between 1998 and 2000 while she was appointed to manage their finances. Each of the victims had been referred to Catholic Charities by Adult Protective Services, which had determined that they were so mentally disabled as to be unable to manage their finances. Sentencing is set in Baltimore City Circuit Court for April 30, 2002.

Williams, whose last known address was in the 900 block of Masefield Avenue in the Catonsville section of Baltimore County, also admitted to stealing thousands of dollars from two credit card companies by misusing the credit cards of Sara Webster, one of her vulnerable clients from whom she also stole $41,000.

One of the three vulnerable adult clients has since died. Mildred Nelson came under Williams’ care in early 1998, when her home was condemned and she was no longer able to care for herself. Williams had herself appointed representative payee over Nelson’s social security disability payments, giving her complete control over that money. She also closed out Mrs. Nelson’s savings accounts and transferred the money into an account which she controlled. Finally, she intercepted Mrs. Nelson’s pension checks and diverted them for her benefit. The total amount stolen from Mrs. Nelson was $19,000.

Sara Webster is 76 years old and severely mentally disabled, suffering from advanced dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. She came under Williams’ care in 1999, after Adult Protective Services had made a finding that she was being exploited by unscrupulous neighbors who had gained access to her checkbook. Williams quickly consolidated her control over Webster’s bank accounts and Certificates of Deposit, transferring most of the money to her own account. She then spent the money for her own benefit, on such things as car payments, credit card debt and catalog shopping for herself. The total amount stolen from Ms. Webster was $41,000. During the same time period, Williams added herself to two of Ms. Webster’s credit cards, on which she ran up nearly $14,000 in personal expenditures for which she never paid.

The third victim, Adeline Massoni, came under the defendant’s care when she was released from a mental institution and was living in a homeless shelter. Williams gained control over Massoni’s disability payments - her only source of income - and stole over $12,000 between 1999 and 2000. During that time period, Massoni, 59, received three sizeable retroactive payments from Social Security totaling over $15,000, but Williams never told her about the windfall. Instead, she made Massoni travel two hours round trip by bus from her Section 8 housing in East Baltimore out to the Catonsville area, where the defendant lived, every month to pick up her monthly cash allotment of $470.

The case stems from an earlier theft case prosecuted by the Attorney General, involving a social worker at Catholic Charities who pleaded guilty to stealing over $14,000 from eight vulnerable adult clients. Wanda Wilson, 53, was sentenced last year to nine months in jail for her conduct. Her thefts were discovered by personnel at Catholic Charities, who referred the matter to authorities. In reviewing the accounts over which Wanda Wilson had authority, they noticed some suspicious checks to Williams, who had some of the same clients. The Attorney General’s Office and the Inspector Generals of the State Department of Human Resources and the Social Security Administration jointly investigated the matter, giving rise to the present charges.

"Sadly, those who commit financial exploitation of vulnerable adults most often are either related to or charged with the care of the victim," Attorney General Curran said. "While we will continue to vigorously prosecute these cases, we will also work to educate family members, care providers and those who deal with vulnerable adults to be wary of signs of potential exploitation. These are despicable crimes and must not be tolerated."

Both cases are part of the Attorney General’s initiative against elder financial abuse. To date, he has charged seven individuals with stealing money from 17 different clients, all of whom were so mentally disabled as to not be able to care for themselves, or who had passed away. Six of the individuals have already been convicted; the seventh is set for trial in Howard County in March, 2002.

The maximum on each of the four felony theft counts to which Williams pleaded guilty is 15 years in prison and a $1,000 fine.