Columbia man charged with elderly exploitation in Perry County case
Thursday, December 13, 2012
PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- Prosecutors want a Columbia, Mo., man brought back to Perry County, where they say he swindled three seniors in November -- including one with Alzheimer's -- out of thousands of dollars.
Jeffrey A. Smith was charged with a felony count of financially exploiting the elderly after the victims -- a married couple and the woman's sister -- told police Smith overcharged them for work they never asked him to do.
"I don't know when he saw us if he thought he had tunas on the line or what," said one of the alleged victims, a 72-year-old woman who did not want to be identified. "He kept pressuring my sister. We were just all so upset. We didn't know what to do."
Judge Michael Bullerdieck signed a criminal summons that was sent to the Boone County Sheriff's Department on Tuesday. A day later, a deputy there confirmed receipt of the summons that sets Smith's arraignment for Jan. 8. If convicted, Smith faces a possible 15-year prison sentence.
The filing late Tuesday by prosecutor Tom Hoeh marks the second time in as many months that elder-abuse charges have been filed in Perry County, with seniors saying they lost large sums of money to con artists.
In late October, a Perryville couple bought into an Orlando, Fla., man's "sweepstakes scheme" that cost them $250,000. That got the attention of Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster. As a special prosecutor, he filed charges against Patrick P. Wilson, who is sitting in the county jail in Perryville.
In Missouri, a person commits financial abuse against the elderly if they knowingly use deception, intimidation, undue influence or force to get control over an elderly person's property with the intent of keeping it. Under Missouri law, an elderly person is at least 60 years old.
In the latest case, prosecutors say Smith showed up unexpectedly at the home of the married couple -- a 78-year-old man and his 72-year-old wife. The wife's sister, who is 77, was visiting.
Smith, who had five other men with him, told the women that he had some extra chip sealing with him after he completed a nearby job, according to a probable-cause statement prepared by sheriff's deputy Jason Klaus.
Smith had a deal for them, they told police, offering to pave their driveway with a common preservative intended to prevent water from seeping into asphalt. The 78-year-old man wasn't there at first, but the women agreed -- but only for a section of the driveway, according to the court filing.
No estimate was discussed, the statement said. When one of the women looked outside a short time later and saw Smith and his crew putting the sealant on the entire driveway, she was aghast.
"They were just tearing the whole road up," she said. "All we wanted was the ditch done."
The woman's sister, who had agreed to pay, hurried to tell Smith she could not afford work on the entire driveway. The sister demanded to know who had authorized the expanded work.
Smith blamed one of the women's husband, who had come home. The man suffers from Alzheimer's disease.
Smith finally gave an estimate, the statement says, telling the sister he wanted $9,000 for the work. When the women balked, the statement says, Smith lowered the price incrementally, finally saying he would take no less than $7,500.
"He was really pressuring her," one woman said. "I didn't want her to have to pay for it. You know, he really took advantage of her."
The sister wrote Smith a check for $7,500. But before she could show it to Smith, she told police, he lowered the price to $5,000.
Smith took the check, told the sister to call him later in the week and he would refund the balance. Leaving only a receipt and a business card with no address, Smith cashed the check that day at a bank in Chester, Ill., the statement said.
The sister tried the number Smith gave several times but never reached him, Klaus wrote.
With Smith still a free man, the women hope stepping forward will help others know not to fall for such a scam.
Because, the woman said, it's too late for them.
"I don't think we'll ever get our money back," one said.