MIAMI, FL – A federal indictment unsealed Thursday, July 1, 2021 in the Southern District of Florida charges a caretaker of two seniors with accessing their bank accounts to steal nearly $300,000. According to the indictment, from 2016 to 2019, Sherri Lynn Smith worked as a caretaker for an elderly couple in Broward County. As part of her duties, Smith had access to the victims’ bank accounts to assist them with paying their monthly bills.
Prosecutors say Smith used her access to the bank accounts to embezzle approximately $300,000 out of the victims’ accounts without their knowledge or consent. Smith accomplished this by writing and forging the victim’s signature on a number of checks made payable to herself, her family members, and her creditors; initiating Zelle electronic money transfers from the victims’ accounts to her own bank account; and making electronic payments from the victims’ accounts to her and her husband’s numerous credit card accounts, it is alleged.
The indictment returned by a federal grand jury on June 8, 2021, charges Smith with 16 counts of bank fraud and 5 counts of aggravated identity theft. Smith made her initial federal court appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart, who sits in West Palm Beach. If convicted, the maximum prison sentences on each bank fraud count is 30 years. The maximum sentence on each aggravated identity fraud charge is two years. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who sits in Ft. Pierce.
Juan Antonio Gonzalez, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI, Miami Field Office, made the announcement. FBI Miami investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacey Bergstrom. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitchell Hyman is handling asset forfeiture. An indictment is merely a charging document. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
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Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the Department of Justice. The mission of the Department’s Elder Justice Initiative is to support and coordinate the Department’s enforcement and programmatic efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud and scams that target our nation’s seniors. To learn more visit https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice. The public is encouraged to report victimization and suspected fraud schemes by calling the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD 11 (1-833-372-8311).