Harrison County Prosecutor-elect Pleads Guilty to 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 a Bethany, Mo., attorney pleaded guilty today in federal court for stealing more than $540,000 from his elderly client.
Richard F. Turner, 39, of Bethany, pleaded guilty to U.S. District Judge David G. Kays to an information charging him with one count of wire fraud and one count of false statements on his tax return. He also pleaded guilty to the information’s asset forfeiture count.
“This is an egregious case of elder abuse,” Dickinson said. “The abuser, Mr. Turner, was the elderly victim’s own attorney. When those in positions of responsibility and trust abuse the elderly, we will bring the full resources of federal and state law enforcement to bring them to justice.”
“Richard Turner violated the trust placed in him, using his elderly client’s trust account as a personal ATM,” Koster said. “Today’s guilty plea acknowledges the seriousness of this breach of trust.”
Through his plea, Turner admitted that from October 12, 2004 to May 29, 2014, he fraudulently attempted to obtain at least $728,147.18, and he did obtain at least $540,803.86, from his 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, Mo. Turner further 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.
Defendant Richard Turner is a lawyer in Bethany, Mo. He is the former elected county prosecutor of Harrison County, Mo., and he was re-elected on November 4, 2014.
On October 12, 2004, a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) was created for an elderly client naming Richard F. Turner as her attorney-in-fact. The DPOA specified that it, “shall become effective ONLY upon (Mrs. Bush’s) subsequent incapacity . . . .” The DPOA granted Turner the ability to conduct financial transactions and pay taxes on behalf of Mrs. Bush, and to conduct business in which she is an interested party. On May 10, 2010, Mrs. Bush became a resident at the Crestview Home, a skilled nursing facility, located in Bethany, Mo. 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 January 19, 2011, Turner received a foreclosure notice for his Bank of America mortgage concerning his personal residence at 21223 Daily Road, Bethany, Mo. On January 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 Mrs. Bush as the “Settler,” and himself as the “Trustee.” At the time, according to the plea agreement, Mrs. Bush was suffering from memory problems. The trust appears to have been signed by Mrs. 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 Mrs. 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 Mrs. 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 Mrs. Bush incapacitated.
In the summer of 2011, Turner admitted that he made arrangements to sell Mrs. 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 Mrs. Bush at Farmers Bank of Northern Missouri (“FBNM”), 1617 Main Street, Bethany, Mo. He deposited a $576,329.11 check from Missouri Land Title Company constituting proceeds from the sale of Mrs. Bush’s farmland.
On August 12, 2011, Turner wire transferred $370,000 from Bush’s account at FBNM in Bethany, Mo., to Bank of America (“BOA”) in New York, NY., to fund a new checking account ending 1089. 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 August 16, 2011, he made a $2,631.57 purchase at Best Buy. On August 17, 2011, he made a $2,882.95 payment to Chase Automotive. Out of his BOA 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 $279,967.87 cashier’s check, which he used on August 22, 2011 to pay off a home mortgage loan held by Bank of America in Mr. Turner’s name. He spent much of the remaining money on daily living and entertainment expenses for himself, and for his struggling business, Richard’s / TD Clothiers, in Bethany, Mo.
On July 13, 2012, Turner wired another $12,760 from FBNM to his BOA account. On August 15, 2013, he wired in another $13,560. On September 21, 2012, at Bank Northwest, Bethany, Mo., Turner cashed in two certificates of deposit held solely by Mrs. Bush. On September 21, 2012, Turner then wired the proceeds, $106,127.61, to his BOA account in New York in two separate wire transfers of $53,973.68 and $52,199.96. Also on September 21, with a debit card on his BOA account, he spent $2,530.20 at Wal-Mart in Bethany, Mo. On September 22, he spent $3,617.66 at O’Neils Home Furnishing in Bethany, Mo. In July and November 2012, Turner also spent $13,316 on a swimming pool, also taken from Mrs. Bush’s funds.
In all, from August 16, 2011, to December 17, 2013, Turner debited $520,137.64 from his BOA account, resulting in a negative balance of (-$85.75) on December 21, 2013. A total of $327,400 went to pay off and improve Mr. 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 November 25 to 26, 2013, Turner used a check in the amount of $147,752.59, issued from Mrs. Bush’s Farmers Bank of Northern Missouri account, 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. No additional deposits were made to this account. Three surveillance photos show Turner at the counter at US Bank in St. Joseph, Mo., on November 26, 2013.
Dorothy A. Bush Revocable Trust account statements from November 26, 2013, through February 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 $1,789.45. The account balance on February 21, 2014, was $130,553.09. From December 12, 2013, through March 10, 2014, Turner spent approximately $20,616.77 from the Trust Account. These debits included four payments to Turner’s law firm from December 2013 to March 2014 for $2,539.45. On March 11, 2014, US Bank “froze” the Trust account, and its investigator contacted law enforcement.
On March 21, 2014, Turner opened another account in Mrs. Bush’s name at Farmer’s Bank of Northern Missouri. For the initial deposit, he transferred the entire balance of $61,707.95 from a FBNM business money market account of Mrs. Bush, which she had opened in 1998. On the Account Agreement, Turner referenced the Trust that he had caused to be created on March 3, 2011. On March 18, 2014, Turner opened an account at the Edward Jones office in Bethany, Mo., titled in the name of “Dorothy A Bush Revocable Trust” with Turner as Trustee and sole signer on the account. Turner caused a $41,686.01 starter check drawn on the new FBNM account to be deposited to the account at Edward Jones. Turner also attempted to transfer the remaining funds ($125,635.57) from the frozen Dorothy A Bush Revocable 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.
In all, through his plea, defendant Turner admitted that from at least October 12, 2004 to May 29, 2014, he attempted to obtain at least $728,147.18 from Mrs. Bush for his personal use, and he did in fact obtain $540,803.86. Debits included 20 payments to Turner’s law firm from August 12, 2011, to March 4, 2014 totaling $39,936.45.
During the 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). He 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. Through his plea, he admitted that he knowingly and willfully did not pay federal or state income taxes on the embezzled funds from Mrs. Bush.
Turner self-prepared his 2011 Form 1040 in Bethany, Mo. He signed and dated the 2011 Form 1040 on October 15, 2012 with his signature on page 2 of the tax return. Turner self-prepared his 2012 Form 1040 and electronically filed it on April 12, 2013. Through his plea, 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 of Missouri 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.