Stateline Elder Abuse

By: Tina Stein
By: Tina Stein

WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) -- The difficult economy and an aging population have created a breeding ground for crimes against the elderly. It has become such a problem in our area, these cases are now getting more attention in court. Tonight a Rockford family shares their horrible experience so we learn how to prevent becoming a victim of financial exploitation.

"I never thought she could do that. It was very disappointing to me," says Rosa Reinhardt.

A postal box is where Rosa Reinhardt uncovered her daughter's lies.

"It was a wonderful situation, I thought. But I had no idea what was actually going on behind closed doors," says Rosa's daughter, Lorri Houde.

The 79-year-old Rosa lived with her daughter Diana Youmans for several years. Since so much of our mail is now online, Rosa didn't really question why it stopped getting delivered. That is until no birthday wishes showed up in July 2009. Her friend insisted he sent a card with cash.

Turns out, Diana opened a mailbox under Rosa's name. That's not all. Court documents show with Diana's power of attorney she wiped out her mom's bank accounts, used her savings to pay off a car and spent mortgage money on herself.

"The devastation is unrecoupable. We cannot recoup any of those losses," says Houde.

The damage, $68,000. And this type of financial exploitation is happening in Rockford everyday. The Visiting Nurses Association gets more than 400 cases of elder abuse reported in Winnebago and Boone Counties each year. They range from robbery, to mental and physical abuse and neglect.

"Individuals are willing to commit crimes against the elderly because they perceive the elderly to be weak and feeble and capable of being susceptible to crimes," says Winnebago County State's Attorney Joe Bruscato.

Bruscato says the elderly make excellent witnesses. But getting them comfortable to testify is difficult.

"We found sometimes those who are the victims of crimes don't even recognize what is happening to them is criminal," he says.

That's why he launched an Elder Abuse division to better track these cases and make sure the punishments are stiff. There are now 33 cases classified as "elder abuse" pending in court.

"The times are gone now where we say that's just a family matter," says Bruscato.

"I couldn't believe my own daughter would do something like this," says Reinhardt.

Rosa was hesitant turning Diana over to the police. But after being left with nothing, she had no choice.

"This is money my father worked all of his life to provide for my mother so she'd never be in the position she's in now, she's not supposed to worry about financial responsibilities now at all and that's all she does worry about," says Houde.

Rosa's daughter Lorri Houde has taken on that financial responsibility. She pays for Rosa's nursing home, which costs more than most of our mortgages.

Diana was convicted last January. She's now paying back Rosa's $68,000, fifty dollars a month at a time. And if she stops, she'll be sentenced to six months in jail. 23 News communicated with Diana via email, but she declined to comment for our report.

Here are a few warning signs of elder abuse in regards to financial exploitation:

-Caregiver refuses to allow contact with the elder
-Sudden change in finances
-Unexplained changes in wills or beneficiaries
-Unnecessary service, goods or subscriptions

If you believe someone is a victim of elder abuse, you can report it anonymously to the Visiting Nurses Association at (815)971-3748.

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Maria Location: Roscoe on Feb 11, 2011 at 08:29 AM
    Beth, what is the truth? We are not playing God, this is a horrible thing that happend to this woman. Sounds like you are wanting us to ask you, so please share with us and maybe call Tina Stein and have her interview you as she did the victim of this crime. If you have the truth I am sure she would be grateful for some insight from you!
  • by Beth Location: Rockford on Feb 10, 2011 at 09:47 PM
    I understand about elder or any abuse which is sad, but i can tell u about this situation, you all don't know the real truth, i do, so stop playing God. And ask the people who know the truth.....Come on now...
  • by Holly Peffer Location: PA on Feb 10, 2011 at 04:48 AM
    Unfortunately when this happens in a family often a third party guardian gets in a position to continue the abuse with no court oversight and the victim can end up in a worse situtation than before.
  • by Maria Location: Roscoe on Feb 9, 2011 at 01:06 PM
    What is wrong with people that we are more worried about the "offender" in these situation, instead of the poor helpless woman who was financially exploited. Hats off to Laurie for opening the dialougue so that perhaps more people will come forward about these dispicable acts that are occuring all over the nation. It sounds like a Elder Abuse task force was needed and is currently helping seniors all over the county. I agree that if Diane really felt she was innocent then she could have talked to WIFR and stated her thoughts, but she chose not to. Thankfully this lady has people looking out for her best intersest that being her daughter Laurie and Joe Bruscato. It takes courage to discuss such a deeply personal story and I commend this family for their bravery. Imagine how painful that must be for this woman to have her own daughter do that to her, and for Laurie who has a sister who would commit such a crime. Jail Time and a higher price certainly shoudlve been paid in this cae
  • by Sue Location: Rockton on Feb 9, 2011 at 12:11 PM
    Regarding Mary's post: I also know Diana from working at the same company. I also had the experience with Diana that she was the caregiver to her mother and that she was the one providing for her. This is a cruel and disgusting way to treat your own mother. My question is,the $50.00 payments is that a court orderd amout or is that just what she decides to pay? If so then she needs to put on a orange jacket and pick up garbage on the side of the road. We also feel that we all feel we were lied to as well.
  • by Jean Marie Location: Belvidere, IL on Feb 8, 2011 at 09:01 PM
    I can't belive this! This was a report of a woman who exposed her daughter after she stole her life savings. The report stated that all the information was from court records. I also recall that the sister was contacted by the reporter and she refused to comment. If the sister was not gulity then why not comment? All information was verified by the states attorney and court documents as per the report.The sister was convicted by a judge in a court of law. Where was the family and evidence then? The victim and the family should be commended for speaking out on a crime that effects so many elderly. I wish the victim and the family all the best.This has been a daily conversation in my work place and all agree she (Diane) got off with a slap on the hand and needs jail time for what she did.How can anyone defend such a person and believe that all documents and statements were not verified. I pray for the victim and her family and praise the bravery in opening the eyes to the public.
  • by Paul Location: Roscoe on Feb 8, 2011 at 09:25 AM
    This comment goes out to Mary who left a post. You are obviously so ill informed of all the details of this story. You obviously believe everything you hear, you obviously don't know Diana or you would have a different opinion. Lauri would lead you to believe she is now paying for a nursing home, but quite the opposite! She is not paying for anything! Believe what you will, it's what you don't know that would change your mind. So sad for you
  • by mary Location: illinois on Feb 7, 2011 at 08:55 AM
    My heart goes out to Rosa. She is the victim. Not Diana. Diana got off easy. Rosa will never recover the losses from this. And while Diana was bilking her mother out of her life savings she was also acting as though she were a saint for giving her mother a room in her home and 'caring' for her. Diana also stated that she needed to watch out for her mother because Lauri Haude (Diana's sister who is now paying for Rosa's nursing home) was trying to take their mother's money. A classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. I know Diana, and again, my heart goes out to Rosa.
  • by Concerned Location: Barrington on Feb 6, 2011 at 12:37 PM
    I too had thoughts about the recent Bedin case when I read this story. In this instance, the daughter apparently was guilty of the theft and I hope it does not lead to guardianship. In the Bedin case, that daughter was trying to protect her mother and was threatened with guardianship for doing so. The common theme here is that the elderly are often subjected to the big bully of all abusers: guardianship. Mr. Bruscato, are you investigating and pursuing Northwestern Memorial Hospital regarding their actions in the Bedin case as elder abuse as well?
  • by Paul Location: Roscoe on Feb 5, 2011 at 10:17 AM
    Such a sad sad story. Knowing the family, It's unbelievable that Lauri Houde's need of fame is so great at the cost of so many, is hurtful to all. So many lies and untruths are stated here, my heart goes out to Diana and her family.
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