Gold Digger: Investigating elderly financial abuse - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Gold Digger: Investigating elderly financial abuse

Mary Williams Mary Williams

Taking advantage of the elderly financially is an age old crime happening more than ever.

Whether it is bullying them into bad deals, using  credit cards without permission, stealing checks or snatching money out their purse or wallet, the people doing it aren't always someone they know.

In any form, it's elder abuse. All of it can be prosecuted.

Sometimes it's a stranger they will never see again. Sometimes it's a stranger who wants to become friends with an ulterior motive.

Chatham County is going after the gold diggers and mooches who prey on the elderly, seeing easy targets with money and houses. However, some of these "victims," no matter what their age, aren't so easy to fleece.

"One day we was going to get married. That's what he told me. But I knew that wasn't going to happen," Mary Williams told WTOC.

Deep down, Williams knew it was too good to be true.

"Oh, I didn't love him. I liked him very much, but love? I really don't think I loved him," she said.

For Williams, the idea of a much younger man, in his 60's, taking care of her late in life was what sucked her in.

She is 90 years old. Her friend was 64. It was a case of a neighbor, turned friend, part-time roommate and almost fiance. But soon, she started to notice some red flags, including food missing.

"He didn't eat in this house. He'd go outside behind the tree. He wouldn't let me see him eating food," she said.

"I said, what in the world is going on," Charlesetta Alston told WTOC.

Williams' closest friends, like Alston, who'd known her for 30 years, were really suspicious, especially when they heard the word marriage.
"It took my breath away. I said no, You need to think that over," Alston recalled. "He'll have complete control of your house and anything you have left. I said, do you want that? And she said no. She had quite a bit of money in the bank."

The red alert went up when Alston saw Williams' latest bank statement. Keep in mind, Williams didn't have any children or family, just one relative who lives in Savannah named Alma.

"When Alma pulled out her bank statement, half the money was gone," Alston said. "We wanted to get a stick and beat him."

Alston got a hold of Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Cpl. Willett Williams, who started investigating and asking some questions of Williams and her new friend.

"Right of the bat, I felt that it was a scam," Cpl. Williams told WTOC.

Large credit card charges, $5,000 worth of checks, some signed by Williams but used for other purposes and larger amounts than given permission for.

"There were one and two $300 checks for mowing the lawn, and just by the size of the lawn, that shouldn't have been the amount," Cpl. Williams said. 

The final straw was when Alston says the man brought Williams to the bank to change her bank account number and issued him a debit card.

"We just thought it was criminal," Alston said.

She says Cpl. Williams stepped in and the man ended up leaving.

"I told him get off my porch. You are not allowed in this house ever again," Williams said.

But in just 6 months, the friendship turned fraud cost Williams $10,000.

"Nothing much left," Williams told WTOC.

Her finances were depleted, but are now secure.

"There have been some changes. It takes a second person to sign off on checks and money," Cpl. Williams said.

While the Chatham County DA's Office tells WTOC, in this case, they could pursue elder abuse charges, Williams has decided not to.

"She's happy. She has neighbors around her and that's what we all what at the end. Happiness," Cpl. Williams said.

As for Williams, she has her friends and her health. 

"I'm still kickin'," she said. She says money isn't everything. "Right. Money is money."

She warns other seniors not to be fooled, follow your instincts and trust your close friends.

And would she consider her former friend a gold digger?

She gave an emphatic "yes."

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