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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of North Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Two Mint Hill Residents Plead Guilty To Federal Charges For Stealing More Than $400,000 From An Elderly, Dementia-Afflicted Victim

Charges Are Pending Against Third Individual

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Gerald Maxwell Harrison, 53, and Elizabeth Robin Williams, 55, both of Mint Hill, N.C., have pleaded guilty to federal charges for conspiring with each other and other individuals to steal more than $400,000 from an elderly victim who suffered from dementia, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

Tommy D. Coke, Inspector in Charge of the of the Atlanta Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which oversees Charlotte, John A Strong, Special Agent in Charge for the FBI in North Carolina, and Chief Tim W. Ledford of the Mint Hill Police Department join U.S. Attorney Murray in making today’s announcement.

According to Harrison and Williams’ plea agreements, court documents filed in the case, and court proceedings, from January 2015 through September 2019, Harrison, Williams, and their co-conspirator, Donna Graves, engaged in a scheme to defraud a victim identified in court documents as “K.T.” The victim was an elderly widow who lived alone and suffered from dementia and other physical and mental challenges.

According to court records, beginning in February 2014, Graves and Williams provided housekeeping services for the victim through a business owned and operated by Graves. Court records show that Harrison, Williams, and Graves isolated the victim from her friends and family, and induced the victim to give them power and control over her financial and personal affairs.  Once they gained access and control, Williams, Harrison, and Graves engaged in numerous illegal and unauthorized financial transactions that substantially depleted the victim’s money and property.  Specifically, the co-conspirators emptied the victim’s bank accounts and used the money to pay for personal expenses, they fraudulently “maxed out” at least one credit card in the victim’s name, they fraudulently transferred or attempted to transfer the victim’s assets to themselves, they pawned the victim’s jewelry, and they stole the victim’s federal benefits.  Additionally, Williams unlawfully used the victim’s money to set up other businesses in her name, including a business selling handbags online and a business selling weight loss-related services. As a result of the fraudulent scheme, the co-conspirators defrauded the victim of more than $400,000. 

Harrison pleaded guilty today to wire fraud conspiracy, interstate transportation of stolen property, and money laundering conspiracy. His co-defendant, Williams, pleaded guilty to the same charges on May 14, 2020.  The wire fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The interstate transportation of stolen property charge carries a maximum prison term of 10 years and a $250,000 fine. The statutory maximum penalty for the money laundering conspiracy charge is 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

The charges in the indictment for the alleged conduct of the third co-defendant, Donna Gravers, are still pending and they are considered allegations.  The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.

In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney Murray commended the FBI, USPIS, and the Mint Hill Police Department for their investigation of this case. 

Assistant United States Attorneys Kenneth M. Smith and Caryn D. Finley, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, are prosecuting the case.

In March 2019, Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, announced the Office’s Elder Justice Initiative, which aims to combat elder financial exploitation by expanding efforts to investigate and prosecute financial scams that target seniors; educate older adults on how to identify scams and avoid becoming victims of financial fraud; and promote greater coordination with law enforcement partners. For more information please visit: https://edit.justice.gov/usao-wdnc/elder-justice-initiative

Topic(s): 
Elder Justice
Financial Fraud
Updated May 20, 2020