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Caregiver accused of stealing thousands of dollars from elderly man
It's a family nightmare -- You hire someone to help care for your elderly parent and that person ends up stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"Our father died alone, and he has six children," said fraud victim Susan Lewis.
Ninety-one-year-old Edward Whitehead's final years were difficult. Dementia robbed him of his memory and an attendant drained his bank account.
"She portrayed herself as a caregiver," explained Lewis. "She immediately took over and controlled everything."
Lewis is talking about Diane Harvell, the woman hired to provide transportation for her father and help with small tasks. What happened next is a warning for all families.
"She managed to weasel her way into the family, and ostracized him from his children," Postal Inspector Michael Van De Putte said. "Managed to convince him that she was the only one he could trust."
"She wanted to keep us away," said Whitehead's son Edward explained. "If she could keep us away that way, we couldn't force her into court or get more information on her."
Harvell convinced Whitehead to sign over his power of attorney. She then altered his will and forged notary public signatures - all without his family knowing.
"She signed all documents as if she were his daughter," Lewis said. "She signed do not ressucitate."
When edward whitehead died, none of his family knew.
"This woman was 10 steps ahead of us," added Lewis. "The moment we found out our father was deceased, we found out that evening, the next morning she was down there filing a forged will."
Postal inspectors began pouring over bank records and surveillance video and verified Harvell stole hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"She took his money in structured withdrawals, less than $10,000 from the bank, drained over $200,000 of his personal savings," said Van De Putte.
Postal inspectors say don't wait until it's too late to set up a plan that protects your elderly loved ones, and be wary of any new person coming into your life, especially if you are dealing with a senior citizen.
As for Diane Harvell, she faces mail theft, ID theft, and forgery charges and could receive a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.