Tuscaloosa County Conservator Gets Prison for Failing to Report a Felony
BIRMINGHAM – U.S. District Judge Abdul K. Kallon today sentenced the former Tuscaloosa County Probate Court conservator to three months in prison for failing to report a felony she knew had been committed, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and FBI Special Agent in Charge Pat Maley.
Judge Kallon sentenced ZONDRA T. HUTTO, 61, of Tuscaloosa, and ordered her to pay $19,358 in restitution to the estate of the 79-year-old dementia patient whose welfare and property Hutto was supposed to protect. She is to report to prison Jan. 2, 2012.
Hutto, a lawyer, pleaded guilty June 30 to misprision of a felony.
“This defendant was an officer of the court and someone assigned to protect the interests and property of people no longer able to conduct their own affairs,” Vance said. “Instead of honoring the trust of her position, Ms. Hutto failed to report the crimes of a close employee and violated the trust placed in her and required of her as a lawyer and as guardian and conservator of her ward’s estate.”
As the conservator for Tuscaloosa County, Hutto was responsible for the welfare and property of individuals ruled incompetent. She was charged with knowing and not reporting to authorities that an employee in her law office fraudulently used a bank debit card belonging to one of her clients.
Between September 2007 and April 2008, a clerk in her law office repeatedly used a bank debit card belonging to a 79-year-old woman diagnosed with dementia. He used the card to withdraw $14,852 from ATMs, to buy two plane tickets to Mexico, costing $1,963, for himself and Hutto, to pay $1,059 for accommodations in Mexico, and to make 11 gasoline purchases totaling $584, according to Hutto’s plea agreement in the case.
During the same time, the clerk also used a department store credit card belonging to the nursing home patient to buy clothing for himself and a designer purse, which he gave Hutto for Christmas, according to the plea agreement.
Hutto was first appointed temporary guardianship in September 2007 of the elderly woman found to be in need of protective services. The Circuit Court of Tuscaloosa County granted Hutto permanent Letters of Guardianship and Letters of Conservatorship for the woman in December 2007.
The FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Meadows prosecuted the case.
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