At moments, it can seem like the holiday season is all about the search for the perfect present. However, in the end, the most valuable gift is the gift of time spent with loved ones and the memories we can create across the generations. Including older family members and aging neighbors in holiday gatherings is rewarding to all involved. Sadly, not everyone shares our commitment to honoring our community's seniors, and the problem of financial elder abuse continues even during this festive season. Our Panama City elder abuse attorney believes that we can reverse the tide of financial abuse, but knows that doing so requires vigilance and an ongoing commitment from all of us.
Following a trail that began with a telephone tip, the Bay County Sheriff's Office ("BCSO") recently announced the arrest of a man believed to have stolen over $100,000 from an elderly Bay County woman. According to a report by WMBB, the Department of Children and Families contacted the BCSO after receiving a call to their tip hotline.
The tip suggested that Henry David Ogden had been taking money from the 94-year-old victim while posing as her grandson. Interviews with the suspect and the victim led the BCSO to conclude that Ogden had befriended the elderly woman shortly after relocating to Bay County in 2012. Bank records show a total of $131,789.56 in withdrawals from the victim's accounts between February 2012 and May 2013, amounts that correspond with deposits to Ogden's accounts.
Ogden allegedly accompanied the victim to the bank on numerous occasions, sometimes claiming to be her grandson and other times claiming that she was paying him for work he performed around her home. Investigators found no evidence that Ogden performed work that could justify the large amounts of money transferred between the two. Instead, they concluded that Ogden gained the victim's trust and then took her money, resources necessary for her financial security, for his own benefit. Investigators also believe the victim lacked the capacity to consent to the transfers given her age and overall condition. Additional evidence suggests Ogden used some of the money to buy vehicles and fund travel.
When Ogden realized the BCSO was looking at his financial records, he fled Bay County. BCSO officers located him in Arkansas and worked with the Randolph County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Marshalls to arrest the 46-year-old. Ogden is awaiting extradition to Bay County and is charged with Exploitation of the Elderly.
Ogden is in jail, and his alleged victim is safe from his further abuse because someone spoke up. Fighting elder abuse in all forms requires the vigilance of our entire community and a commitment to protecting our region's seniors. Helpguide.org provides information on financial elder abuse and notes some of the warning signs, including the following: large withdrawals from financial accounts; missing valuables; sudden changes to legal documents; unexplained activity (i.e. withdrawals from an ATM by a housebound individual); sudden changes in finances/spending; lack of medical care or other necessities that the individual could afford previously; unneeded goods/services/etc. While some of these signs can only be recognized by someone close to the victim, other changes may be noticed by a friend or neighbor.
At the holidays and throughout the year, we encourage our readers to take the time to check in on older community members. If something seems amiss, speak up. You can make a difference.
Attorney Wes Pittman advocates for victims of elder abuse in Panama City and throughout Northwest Florida. Call to schedule a free consultation to discuss how he can put his experience as an attorney for elder abuse victims to work for you or your loved one.