Archive for Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Tonganoxie resident sentenced for taking elderly woman’s funds

October 20, 2004

A 53-year-old former Montana woman -- who now lives in Tonganoxie -- soon will report to federal prison to begin serving a 30-month sentence.

Last week, Susan Y. Martin, 20730 Sandusky Rd., was sentenced in federal court in Billings, Mont. U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull also ruled that after her prison term, Martin would be on supervised release for three years.

Federal authorities had accused Martin of bilking her elderly mother-in-law out of $760,000.

In June, Martin pled guilty to charges of wire fraud, forgery of U.S. treasury bonds and tax evasion. Those three charges were part of a 10-count federal indictment that was filed against Martin.

In addition to the prison term, Cebull ordered Martin to pay restitution of $458,000.

Federal officials said that Martin likely will serve all of the time imposed by the judge. In the federal system, Martin does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior."

However, this reduction will not exceed 15 percent of her overall sentence -- or a maximum of four and one-half months.

John Harrison of the Internal Revenue Service in Denver said the government is trying to determine whether Martin has any assets to seize, in an effort to collect restitution.

"We haven't come up with anything, as of yet," Harrison said. "For the sake of the victims, we try to make sure that the people who steal don't get to enjoy what they've got."

During a visit to The Mirror's office after the newspaper published a story about her guilty plea, Martin said she was forced into making the plea.

The saga that concluded with Martin's sentencing last week centered on Julia Youngblood, a Montana woman who died in December 2003 at 82.

Martin, who was the widow of Youngblood's son, Terry, was granted power of attorney over the elderly woman's financial affairs shortly after the woman fell and moved to a nursing home in January 1997.

And during the next 3 1/2 years, Martin converted about $760,000 of Youngblood's assets to herself. Martin sold the elderly woman's house, took shares of Sara Lee stock and depleted checking accounts.

Within weeks of receiving power of attorney for Youngblood's finances, Martin wrote several large checks to herself; to her husband, Charles Martin, who she married in 1995; and to her son. While the older woman was in the intensive care unit of a Billings, Mont., hospital, Martin wrote herself two checks from Youngblood's account totaling $50,000.

Six months later -- in October 1997 -- Martin sold the woman's home, paying herself $8,000 from the proceeds.

That same day, she wrote a $20,000 check to herself and a $20,000 check to her husband, both on Youngblood's account. She also used proceeds from the house sale to purchase savings bonds in the names of Youngblood's grandchildren and great-grandchildren that Martin later cashed.

Martin also took shares of Sara Lee stock valued in excess of $150,000 that Youngblood had accumulated. Youngblood had earned the stock as a retirement benefit when she worked for the company.

By the middle of 2000, Youngblood's assets were gone and she had to go on Medicaid to receive nursing care, federal officials said.

In July 2000, Youngblood talked with a social worker at a hospital, complaining Martin was not providing her with an accounting of her financial affairs. Youngblood asked that an adult protective services casework be assigned to help her.

On a list of Youngblood's expenses that Martin gave to the social worker was a payment to a Billings hospital for $100,000. But hospital records show that about $760 actually was paid.

In addition, Martin filed gift tax returns in Youngblood's name, indicating large gifts to Youngblood's grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But they never received those gifts.

By early 2001, the caseworker helped Youngblood apply for Medicaid to pay for her nursing home care.

According to authorities, Martin isolated Youngblood from others by not allowing Youngblood to have a telephone in her room at the nursing home, directing the nursing home to divert all of Youngblood's mail to Martin and telling Youngblood's attorney that Youngblood no longer required the attorney's services.

Youngblood, with the help of the caseworker, did file a civil lawsuit against Martin. A settlement in that case provided that Martin return $290,000 of the money she had taken.

In October 2003, a federal grand jury indicted Martin on 10 criminal charges -- two counts of wire fraud, one count of forgery involving U.S. treasury bonds, three counts of aiding or assisting in the preparation of a false tax return and four counts of tax evasion for the years 1997 through 2000.

Two months after the indictment, Youngblood died at the age of 82.

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