A Miami-Dade funeral home worker found herself behind bars after authorities said she befriended an elderly client after his wife's death and gained access to both the paperwork on his home and his financial affairs, using them to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars through a loan and a balloon mortgage.
Miami-Dade Police and the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office's Elderly Exploitation Task Force arrested 56-year-old Maribel Torres on Tuesday and charged her with three counts, including grand theft and organized scheme to defraud.
According to a news release, Torres was an employee at Maspons Funeral Home and met the 84-year-old victim in August 2019 shortly after the death of his wife.
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The man had been diagnosed the previous year with Alzheimer's and advanced dementia, and his wife had been his primary caregiver, authorities said.
Torres allegedly told the victim that she and her son were family members and she was able to obtain his financial paperwork as well as information regarding the status of his home of 40 years.
Torres and her adult son also allegedly had the victim sign numerous documents so they could be added as owners of the home, and had him sign a power of attorney to provide her with access to his legal and financial matters.
In 2020, the property ownership was changed to a corporation created by Torres that was listed as a car wash business, and Torres used that to obtain a $100,000 balloon mortgage, authorities said.
Last year, Torres' corporation obtained a business loan for $360,000, which was deposited to a bank account controlled by Torres, officials said.
“Utilizing a wife’s death and an obvious impairment as tools to steal an elderly man’s home would seem to be a new low in alleged criminal conduct,” noted State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “Situations like this expose the ugly face of elderly exploitation which targets the frailest members of our community.”
A spokesperson for the Mapsons Funeral Home said in a statement that they suspended Torres indefinitely.
"Our funeral home does not have access to, nor were we ever provided with any of the family’s financial paperwork that is allegedly involved in this case," the statement read in part. "We are deeply concerned for the family, as we have a long tradition of serving this community with compassion, dignity, and professionalism. We are cooperating with Miami-Dade Police in their investigation and will share more information as we receive it."
The victim’s nephew, who lived in Palm Beach County, visited the victim and discovered Torres and her son living at the home recently. When the victim identified Torres and her son as the nephew’s aunt and cousin from Cuba, the nephew notified the authorities.
Torres and her son are not related to the victim and his family. Torres is scheduled to appear in court April 7.