BIRMINGHAM -- The U.S. Attorney's Office today charged a former Hoover senior living center employee with using the identity of a resident with dementia, without authorization, to steal more than $300,000 from the resident's bank and credit accounts, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Craig Caldwell.
Federal prosecutors charged SHOSTOCKA KEYA WARD, 43, of Vestavia Hills, with bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in an information filed in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors also filed a plea agreement with Ward, in which she acknowledges the charges and agrees that she will plead guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. She also agrees to pay restitution of $335,214 and to forfeit that same amount to the government as proceeds of illegal activity.
According to Ward's plea agreement, her fraud included writing more than $70,000 in unauthorized checks to herself and using one of the victim's credit cards for expenses including financing her own wedding, applying money to someone's prison account, making car and private school tuition payments, and taking trips to Las Vegas, Chicago, Tunica, Miss., and Gatlinburg, Tenn.
According to the government's charging document and Ward's plea agreement, she worked at Galleria Woods as a resident assistant or a transportation coordinator from about August 2010 to January 2014. In 2011, Ward became acquainted with the victim, a Galleria Woods resident who was 75 years old, had no immediate family, few visitors and an out-of-town family friend who served as her power of attorney, but was not actively involved in her daily care or the management of her daily finances.
Ward began assisting the victim with transportation, errands, bill payments and other financial issues, and gained access to the victim’s purse, mail, financial statements, checkbook, and debit and credit cards, according to the information. Ward maintained her relationship with the victim during her employment at Galleria Woods as the victim’s mental and physical condition declined and she became incapable of managing her financial affairs, according to the charges against Ward.
Between Oct. 11, 2011, and Feb. 13, 2014, Ward carried out a scheme to defraud eCO Credit Union of money in the victim’s account through various means and without the victim’s authorization, according to the information and plea agreement. Ward used the victim’s checks for her own benefit, often forging her signature, and obtained a check/ATM card on the eCO account, according to the charges. Ward used the checks and the debit card to obtain cash and to pay for goods and services worth more than $120,000, according to the information. She also used the victim’s Chase Bank, State Farm Bank and Macy's Department Store credit cards for hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses and purchases, and paid portions of those bills with money from the victim's credit union account to continue the scheme.
The maximum prison penalty for bank fraud is 30 years. The penalty for aggravated identity theft is a mandatory two years in prison, which must be served after completion of any other prison sentence imposed for the crime.
U.S. Secret Service investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Erica Williamson Barnes is prosecuting