Abuse of Trust: When Caregivers Become Criminals

When May Lee (victim’s name changed) hired Susan Chin to be her caregiver, it seemed like the perfect solution to her long-term care needs. Over time, however, when Chin gained Lee’s trust, she slowly gained access to Lee’s finances and convinced her to sign a “power of attorney” (sometimes referred to in our office as a “license to steal”). It was not long after getting this legal document, that Chin violated the trust given to her and sold Lee’s house for more than $600,000, of which Chin kept the money for herself.

Although Susan Chin’s actions were found out and she was prosecuted for her crimes, May Lee still endured financial hardship, emotional stress and, ultimately, the loss of her dream of spending the rest of her life in the home that she had once owned.

When Yumi Smith (victim’s name changed) hired an agency to assist her in caring for her husband who was in poor health, she trusted that the company would provide her with caregivers who were not only responsible and professional, but who also wanted to sincerely help her in caring for her husband. Unfortunately, this business sent Kathlyn Lepena, a caregiver who ended up helping herself to Smith’s jewelry.

The Honolulu Police Department investigated this crime and was able to recover most of the jewelry Lepena stole. Eventually, Lepena pled guilty to the felony offense of Theft in the Second Degree and is presently under court supervision for her crime.

Unfortunately, the above two cases are only a couple of the many crimes the Elder Abuse Justice Unit at the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney has handled in the past several years. It is cases like these that highlight the risks involved when hiring a stranger to care for yourself or a loved one in your own home.

So, how should you hire a caregiver to come into your home? How can you prevent abuses?

When looking for an agency or service that will provide a skilled worker to come into the home and provide assistance, it is important to do your homework first.

Here are two agencies that can let you know if any complaints have been made against a business:

  • Better Business Bureau
    (808) 536-6956
  • Consumer Resource Center
    State Dept. of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (808) 587-3222

Additionally, if you type in the company’s name with the word “review” in an Internet search engine (such as Google and Bing), you might find reviews from people, either offering praises or warnings. Also, seek recommendations from friends who have already gone through the process of finding somebody.

Perhaps the best thing that can be done, however, is to protect your financial information. Upon hiring a caregiver, never give out private financial or personal information, account numbers or blank checks. Your caregiver is there to take care of your family — not your money.

Remember, a stranger is entering your home or the home of someone you care for. It is a lot better to know the background of these providers, than to assume they are the caregivers you envisioned them to be.

To Report Suspected Elder Abuse, call:
Adult Protective Services
All reports are confidential.


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