Former Belmont County attorney charged with stealing more than half a million dollars from elderly victim with dementia
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A federal grand jury has charged a former Belmont County attorney with crimes related to stealing more than half a million dollars from an elderly woman with dementia while acting as the woman’s Power of Attorney.
Mark Alan Thomas, 61, of St. Clairsville, Ohio, is charged with four counts of mail fraud, a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
According to court documents, from 2012 through August 2019, Thomas defrauded a client while serving as her Power of Attorney. It is alleged that Thomas took the victim’s money without her knowledge or permission to use for his own benefit.
The indictment details that Thomas improperly used the victim’s Power of Attorney and his status as a lawyer – even after his law license was revoked in 2015 – to convince various entities, including banks and life insurance companies, to transfer the victim’s money for his use.
In May 2012, a family member of the victim obtained a separate Power of Attorney for the victim, and it is alleged that Thomas drafted a revocation of the family member’s Power of Attorney for the victim to sign. At the time, the victim was 85 years old, exhibiting symptoms of dementia, and living in a senior-care facility. Thomas allegedly acted as the notary to verify the victim’s signature on the revocation.
The indictment further alleges that Thomas falsely told a banker he needed $200,000 from the victim’s investment account to set up an educational fund that the victim wanted to establish. Once he received the money from the bank, Thomas allegedly transferred the money to himself instead.
In January 2014, Thomas allegedly cashed more than $290,000 of the victim’s U.S. Treasury Bonds, then subsequently transferred $200,000 into his law firm’s bank account, and eventually into his own personal bank account.
According to the indictment, in 2016, Thomas wrote letters to three life insurance companies purporting to be the victim asking to cash out the victim’s policies and direct all correspondence to Thomas.
“In total, the charging document alleges Thomas stole more than $500,000 of the victim’s funds while claiming to act in her best interests as Power of Attorney,” Acting U.S. Attorney Vipal J. Patel said.
“Having power of attorney is not a license to steal,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “I am thankful that investigators with my Health Care Fraud unit and our federal partners were able to expose this alleged abuse of trust.”
Patel, Yost and FBI Special Agent in Charge J. William Rivers announced the charges. The Ohio Attorney General’s Health Care Fraud Unit and the FBI investigated the case. Assistant United States Attorneys David J. Twombly and S. Courter Shimeall are representing the United States in this case.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
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