A married couple in their 90s paid for the down payment on their caretaker’s Tamarac house; a new A/C unit, windows and fence for the house; the ballroom for the caretaker’s daughter’s wedding reception; and the caretaker’s credit card bills.
The couple didn’t know they were being this generous with caretaker Sherri Lynn Smith. Smith was stealing $288,865 from them in a classic case of elder fraud.
Elder fraud isn’t on the federal law books, so Smith pleaded guilty to bank fraud and fraud with identification documents in late May. THe 52-year-old will be sentenced Aug. 26 in Fort Pierce federal court.
Trust broken, bills paid
What follows comes from Smith’s admission of facts that goes with her guilty plea.
A couple identified in the guilty plea as “N.B. and J.B.” were living in Broward County with their daughter and son-in-law, W.D., when J.B. suffered a stroke in 2016. Smith was hired as household help, “to assist them with their personal and financial affairs.”
That meant food shopping, cooking, some housework, ferrying N.B. and J.B. about…and helping with banking. Given access to their accounts, Smith forged N.B.’s signature on checks and made electronic money transfers to bank and credit card accounts in her name and her husband’s name.
Examples of Smith’s thievery include:
▪ A $500 check went to Miramar’s Jubilee Ballroom on June 14, 2017. That’s where Smith’s daughter had her wedding reception later in 2017.
▪ Smith forged a $1,312.78 check to her son-in-law on Dec. 22, 2017.
▪ Exactly a year after the ballroom payment, a $16,000 check went to “J.C.,” Smith’s real estate closing attorney, for the down payment of a Tamarac home. Broward County Property Records say on June 21, 2018, Sherri Lynn Smith, husband John Smith and a Justin Smith bought 7703 NW 73rd Terr., a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,367 sq. ft home. Jacqueline Cannavan was the closing agent.
Broward County Property Records say Sherri Lynn Smith bought this Tamarac house in June 2018. Smith’s guilty plea says she used money she stole from an elderly couple to make the down payment that month.
Just 15 days later, Smith forged a $6,000 check to herself and used it for a new air conditioning unit, windows and fence for her new home.
▪ Electronic payments of $1,792.41 to Smith’s Chase credit card account on Feb. 25, 2019; $1,490.82 to the same Chase credit card account on March 25, 2019; and $1,338.49 to a different Chase credit card account on April 1, 2019.
▪ An electronic payment of $1,185.98 went to Smith’s husband’s Chase credit card account on Feb. 15, 2019 and another of $1,488.35 on April 4, 2019.
▪ $46,000 in Zelle transfers from N.B. and J.B.’s Bank of America savings account to Smith’s Chase Bank account.
Though Smith tried to cover her fraud with a fake ledger showing she repaid N.B. and J.B., their son-in-law discovered her ripoff in April 2019.