Friday, June 16, 2017

North Dakota Woman Dodges Prison Time, Having Already Served 43 Days After Arrest & Offering Immediate Restitution For Allegedly Abusing POA To Fleece 90+ Year-Old, Dementia-Stricken Uncle Out Of Real Estate Deeds, Mineral Rights, Bank Account; Defendant To Repay $30K, Remainder Of Pilfered Assets Returned To Victim

In Watford City, North Dakota, the Williston Herald reports:
  • A woman who McKenzie County prosecutors say took all of her mentally impaired uncle’s assets in 2014 has been sentenced to serve two years of probation.

    Sandra Potter appeared in court in Watford City on Tuesday, where she entered an Alford plea to two counts of exploitation of a vulnerable adult. One of the charges was a Class A felony, and the other a misdemeanor.

    An Alford plea is a legal maneuver that allows a person to avoid admitting guilt while conceding that enough evidence exists for a conviction.

    Two additional charges of exploitation of a vulnerable adult, both Class B felonies, were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.

    Northwest District Judge Daniel El-Dweek sentenced Potter to one year in prison, with all but 43 days suspended. Potter was credited for the 43 days she spent in jail after her arrest, which means she will serve no prison time.

    Prosecutors say Potter convinced her uncle, Robert Gross, who is in his 90s, to sign over his bank account, mineral rights and deeds to property between 2013 and 2014.

    The sentence angered Gross’s niece, who accused Potter of planning to take advantage of the elderly man for years by isolating him from other family members and telling him that others were out to get his money.

    “I am happy that you are exposed for what you really are — a predator,” Lynette Wicorek said as she read a statement during the hearing. “Of all the crimes you have committed you are getting off extremely easy.”

    Potter, 70, also spoke, telling the judge that she had Gross’s best interests at heart and did not set out to take advantage of him.

    “I’ve known him since I was a child, and I’ve loved him since I was a child,” she said. “I did not take from him, if he was incompetent I did not know it.”

    Potter was ordered to pay $30,300 in restitution, an amount that McKenzie County Assistant State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz said was “unhappily” accepted by one of Gross’s co-guardians, and not accepted by another.

    Still, he said, he felt that the sum was the most he could legally demand, and pointed out that land, a will, mineral rights and other assets had been returned to Gross’s name.

    “This is a circumstance in which frankly everyone will walk out of here unhappy,” Schwarz said. “This is a family thing that has many many facets beyond the criminal issue… There are a lot of hard feelings, there’s a lot of hurt, there’s a lot of pain, there’s a lot of anger.”

    Deep-rooted emotions propelled the case into the criminal realm, defense attorney Tyrone Turner said, referring to it as a civil dispute.

    “It really has gone too far mainly because of this animosity,” he said.

    Potter was arrested in 2015 after an investigation into claims that she bilked Gross out of his entire estate was re-opened by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

    Authorities said Gross handed over assets worth nearly $200,000 including mineral rights, the deeds to his farm in Fairview and three other properties in Arizona. He also gave Potter power of attorney and left her everything in his will, court records say.

    Gross, who now suffers from dementia, has been diagnosed with the mental capability of a 12-year-old.

    In January, El-Dweek rejected a plea deal that included many of the same elements of the agreement presented this week.

    He expressed continuing dissatisfaction with the resolution before accepting the new terms, but said the fact that Potter was prepared with immediate restitution payment factored heavily into his decision to accept them.

    “The law and the criminal justice system is insufficient to heal the harm that’s been done in this case,” El-Dweek said.
Source: Woman gets probation for exploiting uncle (Judge accepts plea deal, but expresses dissatisfaction). jail prison buyout

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