Former Harrison County Prosecutor Sentenced for Stealing $540,000 from Elderly Client
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, and Chris Koster, Missouri Attorney General, announced that the former Harrison County, Mo., prosecuting attorney was sentenced in federal court today for stealing more than $540,000 from an elderly client.
Richard F. Turner, 40, of Bethany, Mo., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge David G. Kays to three years and nine months in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Turner to pay restitution to his former client, followed by restitution payments to the Internal Revenue Service and the Missouri Department of Revenue. Turner has already made two restitution payments to his former client totaling $193,753.
Turner, an attorney, is the former elected county prosecutor of Harrison County and he was re-elected on Nov. 4, 2014. On Nov. 26, 2014, Turner pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of false statements on his tax return.
Turner admitted that from Oct. 12, 2004 to May 29, 2014, he fraudulently attempted to obtain at least $728,147, and he did obtain at least $540,803, from an elderly client. He spent the money on personal expenses not authorized by his client, the client’s trust agreements, or his power of attorney, including paying off his home mortgage, putting in a swimming pool, and spending heavily at retail establishments and restaurants in Bethany, St. Joseph, and Kansas City, Mo., including to support his clothing store, Richard’s / TD Clothiers, in Bethany. Debits included 20 payments to Turner’s law firm from August 2011 to March 2014 totaling $39,936.
Turner also admitted that he failed to pay taxes on the embezzled income, causing additional loss to the state and federal government of at least approximately $154,453.
On Oct. 12, 2004, a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) was created for Dorothy Bush, naming Turner as her attorney-in-fact. The DPOA specified that it, “shall become effective ONLY upon (Bush’s) subsequent incapacity ...” The DPOA granted Turner the ability to conduct financial transactions and pay taxes on behalf of Bush, and to conduct business in which she is an interested party. On May 10, 2010, Bush became a resident at the Crestview Home, a skilled nursing facility in Bethany. Records reflect that she was suffering short-term memory impairment at the time of her admission.
Through his plea, Turner admitted that from 2005 to 2011, his income diminished but his spending increased. On Jan. 19, 2011, Turner received a foreclosure notice for his residence. On Jan. 31, 2011, Turner filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in the Western District of Missouri.
On March 3, 2011, Turner caused to be created the Dorothy A. Bush Revocable Trust, naming Bush as the “Settler,” and himself as the “Trustee.” At the time, according to the plea agreement, Bush was suffering from memory problems. The trust appears to have been signed by Bush; however, Turner notarized the signature himself. No other witnesses were listed. The trust authorized the trustee to make payments from the trust assets for the “care, maintenance and comfort” of Bush. It allowed the trustee to sell assets, invest funds, sell property, pay debts, and to act “generally in the management of the trust estate to do all acts and things which he/she deems for the best interests of the trust.” Turner was not himself a beneficiary under the terms of the trust, nor was he authorized under the trust to make personal expenditures. Upon Bush’s death, the trust provided for the distribution of her remaining assets to various persons and charitable organizations, including family members, friends, the Salvation Army, Masonic Home of Missouri, Northwest Missouri State University, and multiple churches. One week after the trust was set up, on March 10, 2011, doctors declared Bush incapacitated.
In the summer of 2011, Turner made arrangements to sell Bush’s farmland, while intending to embezzle some or all of the proceeds. On July 12, 2011, Turner’s bankruptcy case was dismissed on his own motion. On July 29, 2011, Turner opened an individual checking account for Bush at Farmers Bank of Northern Missouri and deposited a $576,329 check from Missouri Land Title Company from the proceeds of the sale of Bush’s farmland.
On Aug. 12, 2011, Turner wire transferred $370,000 from Bush’s account at Farmer’s Bank to Bank of America to fund a new checking account. The outgoing wire transfer sheet stated the reason for the transfer as, “Funding a new trust for Dorothy,” but the account was held solely in Turner’s name. On Aug. 16, 2011, he made a $2,631 purchase at Best Buy. On Aug. 17, 2011, he made a $2,882 payment to Chase Automotive. Out of his Bank of America account, Turner paid almost $300,000 to his various personal creditors, including Discover, Bank Northwest, Chase Automotive Finance, and Best Buy. This included the purchase of a $279,967 cashier’s check, which he used on Aug. 22, 2011 to pay off his home mortgage loan. He spent much of the remaining money on daily living and entertainment expenses for himself, and for his struggling business, Richard’s / TD Clothiers.
On July 13, 2012, Turner wired another $12,760 from Farmer’s Bank to his Bank of America account. On Aug. 15, 2013, he wired in another $13,560. On Sept. 21, 2012, Turner cashed in two certificates of deposit held solely by Bush. On Sept. 21, 2012, Turner then wired the proceeds, $106,127, to his Bank of America account. Also on Sept. 21, with a debit card on his Bank of America account, Turner spent $2,530 at Wal-Mart in Bethany. On Sept. 22, he spent $3,617 at O’Neils Home Furnishing in Bethany. In July and November 2012, Turner also spent $13,316 on a swimming pool, also taken from Bush’s funds.
In all, from Aug. 16, 2011, to Dec. 17, 2013, Turner debited $520,137 from his Bank of America account, resulting in a negative balance of (-$85.75) on Dec. 21, 2013. A total of $327,400 went to pay off and improve Turner’s home, including for the swimming pool. He spent $22,843 at Wal-Mart, $14,667 on retail electronics, $8,430 to pay off his credit cards, $13,324 on automotive expenses (including maintenance for his 2005 GMC Hummer), $9,516 on fuel and convenience stores, $5,805 at restaurants, $6,546 on travel, and $19,014 on clothing, including for items to sell in his store, Richard’s / TD Clothiers.
From Nov. 25 to 26, 2013, Turner used a check in the amount of $147,752, issued from Bush’s account at Farmers Bank, to open a US Bank account in the name of Dorothy A. Bush Revocable Trust, Richard F. Turner Trustee. The referenced check is signed by Turner as the POA, with, “transfer to Trust estate,” written in the memo section. Signature cards for the new US Bank account list Turner as the sole signer on the account.
Dorothy A. Bush Revocable Trust account statements from Nov. 26, 2013, through Feb. 21, 2014, show numerous debits from this account, most of which were conducted via debit card. The debit card usage appears typical of day-to-day purchases, including groceries, dining, gas, and movies. Of note are three debits to the “Turner Law Firm” totaling $1,789. The account balance on Feb. 21, 2014, was $130,553. From Dec. 12, 2013, through March 10, 2014, Turner spent approximately $20,616 from the account. These debits included four payments to Turner’s law firm from December 2013 to March 2014 for $2,539. On March 11, 2014, the bank froze the trust account and contacted law enforcement.
On March 21, 2014, Turner opened another account in Bush’s name at Farmers Bank of Northern Missouri. For the initial deposit, he transferred the entire balance of $61,707 from a business money market account that Bush had opened in 1998. On March 18, 2014, Turner opened an account at the Edward Jones office in Bethany in the name of “Dorothy A Bush Revocable Trust” with Turner as trustee and sole signer on the account. Turner caused a $41,686 starter check drawn on the new Famers Bank account to be deposited to the account at Edward Jones. Turner also attempted to transfer the remaining funds ($125,635) from the frozen trust account at US Bank to the Edward Jones account. The transfer was denied due to the holds that US Bank placed on the account.
During this timeframe, Turner maintained a legal practice, a private probation business, a legal services business and a retail clothing business. Turner filed federal individual income tax returns using the filing status single for tax years 2011 (paper) and 2012 (electronic). According to the plea agreement, Turner claimed $0 taxable income in 2011 (he listed adjusted gross income as $11,116) and 2012 (he listed adjusted gross income as $2,944). The income reported is due to losses in some of his businesses that are offset by the gains made in the other businesses. Turner admitted that he knowingly and willfully did not pay federal or state income taxes on the embezzled funds from Bush.
Turner self-prepared his 2011 and 2012 Form 1040. Turner admitted that he knowingly and willfully failed to report and pay income tax on the embezzled income of $370,000 in 2011 and $118,934 in 2012. Consequently, Turner has an estimated additional tax due and owing of $102,978 and $25,331 for tax years 2011 and 2012, respectively. Turner did not file or pay state income taxes for 2011 and 2012. =For 2011, Turner owed $20,424. For 2012, he owed $5,720. The total amount of federal and state tax liability still due and owing from 2011 and 2012 is $154,453.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel M. Nelson and Missouri Assistant Attorney General Joseph Schlotzhauer. It was investigated by the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation, The Missouri Division of Health and Senior Services, and the Missouri Department of Revenue.