AG touts conviction in vulnerable adults case

Published 5:00 am Thursday, July 10, 2008

The recent conviction of a Wesson woman on multiple counts ofexploiting elderly residents of the Lincoln Residential Centerillustrates the efforts of the Attorney General’s Vulnerable AdultsUnit to help those who can’t always help themselves, AG Jim Hoodsaid.

Emily Mara Martin, 27, of 1006 Wolf Hollow Dr., Wesson, pleadedguilty to four counts of felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult,four counts of attempted felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult,one count of misdemeanor exploitation of a vulnerable adult, andtwo counts of felony embezzlement. The charges all occurred duringthe time she was employed by the Lincoln Residential Center inBrookhaven.

“I’ll never understand the psychology of that, why someone wouldsteal from someone who can’t take care of themselves,” Hood said.”If you could understand it logically, they probably wouldn’t doit. It’s not logical to do things like that.”

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Hood said his unit handles some cases like Martin’s that occur innursing homes and assisted living-type facilities, but that themajority of the crimes his office sees are done by family membersand caretakers inside private residences.

“We have these cases like Ms. Martin’s come up frequently but thereare a lot more cases out there that we have where a family memberwill take advantage of an elderly person and steal their money,”Hood said. “By comparison, there are just a lot more cases we seewith some caregiver in the primary family that does this than infacilities.”

Martin allegedly took more than $10,000 and allegedly attempted totake an additional $6,400 from the Lincoln Residential Center, aswell as from residents of the facility, according to informationfound during the AG’s office’s five-month investigation. Thevictims of Martin’s embezzlement will be reimbursed, officialssaid.

Martin appeared in Lincoln County Circuit Court recently and wassentenced to 10 years in prison, with five years suspended and theother five ordered to be served through supervised probation.Martin was also ordered to pay full restitution in the amount of$10,845.20; $5,000 in fines; $5,000 for investigative costs; and$1,000 to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund.

Hood said Martin was put in charge of assisting mentally challengedadults at the Lincoln Residential Center in setting up and managingtheir own checking accounts.

“Instead, she had residents sign blank checks which she then madeout to herself and deposited into her personal account. We werehappy that through this prosecution we were able to return thestolen money to the victims,” he said.

Mississippi law defines a vulnerable adult as any adult 18 years ofage or older or any minor whose ability to perform the normalactivities of daily living is impaired due to a mental, emotional,physical or developmental disability or dysfunction. Hood said hisoffice’s Vulnerable Adults Unit does not take it lightly whenpeople take advantage of the disabled and elderly.

“Our vulnerable adult laws were designed to protect those citizenswho cannot protect themselves,” said Hood. “When someone stealsfrom the elderly or the incapacitated, they can expect the fullweight of the law to be thrown at them.”

Hood said in Martin’s case, Lincoln Residential caught the crimebecause they have internal auditors, which is true of manyfacilities for the elderly.

“They always get caught if they’re in a facility like that.Actually, we catch them because they audit,” he said.

The Vulnerable Adults Unit consists of one prosecutor and oneinvestigator who coordinate with local law enforcement as well aswith the Department of Human Services to guarantee thatMississippi’s vulnerable adults in private homes are protected.

A spokesman for Lincoln Residential said center officials have nocomment on Martin’s actions or conviction.