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For Immediate Release
August 1, 2003
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
scaine@oag.state.md.us

HOUSEKEEPER SENTENCED FOR STEALING
FROM ELDERLY GALENA MAN

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today the sentencing of Margaret Wilson, 69, of Morgnec Cutoff in Chestertown, on her conviction for stealing money from her 90-year-old employer. Kent County Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Price sentenced Wilson, who had been employed as the victim's housekeeper, to one year in jail, suspending all but one month of the sentence, to be served at the Kent County Detention Center. Wilson was further ordered to pay the maximum fine of $2,000 and was placed on three years of supervised probation.

Wilson had been convicted in mid-June of stealing two sizeable checks, in the amounts of $50,000 and $950, from H. Lee Russell, now deceased, of Galena, Maryland. The thefts occurred in July 2001, around the time that Russell was hospitalized on an emergency basis, due to severe dehydration and emaciation. At the time of his admission to the hospital, Russell weighed only 88 pounds. He was completely unresponsive, and was unable to either answer the doctors' questions or sign any of the necessary consent forms.

The evidence at trial showed that Wilson took advantage of Russell's deteriorating physical and mental health, and wrote the two checks to herself on Russell's account at People's Bank. The signature on the $50,000 check was completely illegible; nevertheless, Wilson was able to negotiate it by depositing it in an account at a bank in Delaware. She then tried to obtain control over what remained in Mr. Russell's account, by asking People's Bank to send someone out to Russell's farm to execute a Power of Attorney. When they saw Russell's deplorable condition, they insisted on a competency exam by a physician. The bank officials testified at the trial that Russell was in such bad shape that he looked dead. Wilson thereupon took Russell - who could not walk or speak - to Dr. Paul Katz, a physician in Cecilton, for such an examination. Dr. Katz took one look at Russell and ordered him to be taken immediately to the emergency room at Union Hospital in Elkton. Russell was admitted to the hospital that night and died there three weeks later.

Wilson wrote herself the $950 check on July 13, 2001, a day after Russell had been admitted to the hospital, and presented it for payment that night. Although signed with Mr. Russell's name, the court found that Russell could not have signed it in light of his non-responsive state upon admission to the hospital one day earlier.

The matter had been referred to the Attorney General's Office by the Kent County State's Attorney and the Kent County Department of Social Services, Adult Protective Services. It was investigated by the Maryland State Police and the Criminal Investigations Division of the Attorney General's Office.

In announcing the sentence, Attorney General Curran stated "Mr. Russell had no relatives and no one else in the world except his housekeeper, upon whom he was completely dependent, and she violated his trust by stealing from him in the last days of his life. I applaud the quick action of the Department of Social Services in investigating and referring this case for criminal prosecution."

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