Former Belmont County attorney pleads guilty to stealing more than $800,000 from elderly victim with dementia
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Ohio
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A former Belmont County attorney pleaded guilty to a crime related to stealing more than $882,000 from an elderly woman with dementia while purporting to act in her best interests under a Power of Attorney.
Mark Alan Thomas, 62, of St. Clairsville, Ohio, pleaded guilty to mail fraud, a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
“My office is dedicated to protecting the most vulnerable among us, particularly those targeted through elder fraud,” U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker said. “The victim in this case was 85 years old, exhibiting symptoms of dementia, and living in a senior-care facility, making the defendant’s conduct even more depraved.”
According to court documents, from 2012 through August 2019, Thomas defrauded a client while acting as her agent under a Power of Attorney. Thomas took the victim’s money without her knowledge or permission to use for his own benefit.
Thomas improperly used the victim’s Power of Attorney and his status as a lawyer – even after his law license was revoked in 2015 – to convince various entities, including banks and life insurance companies, to transfer the victim’s money for his use.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 Thomas drafted a revocation of the family member’s Power of Attorney for the victim to sign. Thomas acted as the notary to verify the victim’s signature on the revocation.
Furthermore, 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 transferred the money to himself instead.
In January 2014, Thomas 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 court documents, 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.
Thomas was indicted by a federal grand jury in September 2021.
“Older Americans can be especially vulnerable to fraudsters who take advantage of the elderly and steal their hard-earned savings,” stated FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge J. William Rivers. “It is deeply concerning when an individual exploits their position of trust in an effort to steal from a senior victim.”
“A power of attorney is a special kind of trust—and the abuse of that trust is a special kind of crime. It deserves an especially long sentence,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
Kenneth L. Parker, U.S. Attorney, Southern District of Ohio; J. William Rivers, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division; and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced the guilty plea entered before Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley. 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.
To report elder fraud, please visit the FBI’s IC3 Elder Fraud Complaint Center or contact the dedicated National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833–FRAUD–11 or 833–372–8311 Monday – Friday, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm EST.
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Updated August 18, 2022