Elderly woman scammed for over $1 million - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Elderly woman scammed for over $1 million

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June 23, 2004

Albany-- A former volunteer at the SOWEGA Council on Aging and an employee of the Council are arrested for swindling the woman.

Seventy-three-year-old Helen Anne Williamson is a long-time volunteer, working with the elderly in nursing homes and the SOWEGA Council on Aging.

District Attorney Ken Hodges charges Williamson gained 77-year-old Ima Rude's confidence, and became her legal guardian with power of attorney for the resident of a Dougherty County assisted living home.

She is charged with embezzling over $1,033,000 from Rude.

Dougherty County Sheriff's deputies and district attorney officers raid her home on Medley Court in Lee County at 9:30AM. A home investigators say was bought with money swindled from 77-year-old Ima Rude.

Anne Williamson, her son Dan Daniell and his wife Cyndi Daniell are arrested. When asked if she stole from Ima Rude, Williamson said, "No , I never stole anything." Williamson said she didn't know why she was being arrested.

Four other homes in Lakeland, Worth, and Dougherty County were raided at the same time, and authorities say that eight people in all will be charged with stealing from Rude. Most are Williamson's children or in-laws.

Also arrested was Jerri Berry, an employee of SOWEGA Council on Aging.

District Attorney Ken Hodges says "Make no mistake about it, Helen Anne Williamson is the primary suspect. She masterminded it, and she was the one who disseminated the funds from Ms. Rude's account to the others."

Investigators say three houses in Lakeland, and Lee County were bought by Williamson's relatives with money stolen from Rude. Those homes have been seized, several bank accounts frozen, along with safety deposit boxes and financial records. A civil lawsuit has been filed to recover as much money as possible for Rude.

District Attorney Ken Hodges says "We intend to put a clamp down on all the financial assets of the eight individuals named in the criminal indictment."

Investigators say Williamson and her family members were living the good life off Rude's money. Hodges said "It was clear from the financial records that we have gone through that they were living extravagantly. Using credit cards extensively. So I don't how much money we are going to be able to recover."

Williamson, Berry, and Dan Daniell are being held in the Dougherty County jail tonight without bond. Cyndi Daniel, a paraplegic with an infant, was released on bond. Four other suspects are expected to turn themselves in the following days.

Williamson is known to have guardianship over at least three other elderly persons. Investigators are starting to look into those people's accounts to see if they have been embezzled.

    • How was it done?

Ann Williamson was Ima Rude's legal guardian and had power of attorney. That means Williamson controlled Rude's bank account. Dougherty County Probate Judge Nancy Stephenson signed Williamson's guardianship paperwork four years ago.

Williamson was supposed to have been monitored by the courts, but she failed to turn in financial reports, and hearings about that were repeatedly postponed.

Stephenson says Power of Attorney documents are the most abused documents in the world, but there's a way to protect yourself.  "You can have durable powers of attorney that don't spring into existence, for instance, when your doctor says you can no longer make decisions. There are certain documents you can put into place to take the decision out of the courts hands and say who you want to be responsible for your property and your healthcare."

According to guardianship papers, in 2000 Rude's personal property was worth $800,000. Prosecutors say,however, that $1.2 million was stolen from her.

posted at 5:45PM by dave.miller@walb.com