A journalist is facing kidnapping and other charges after authorities said she dragged her 88-year-old mother from her Miami-Dade home and had her involuntarily placed in an assisted living facility then financially exploited the elderly woman out of more than $200,000.
Catherine Areu Jones, 51, has been arrested on charges including exploitation of the elderly, organized scheme to defraud, conspiracy to commit organized scheme to defraud, kidnapping, false imprisonment and fraudulent use of personal identification, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office announced Friday.
Areu Jones is a journalist who has worked under the name Cathy Areu, and formerly worked as a columnist for the Washington Post and as a guest on Fox News, appearing with Tucker Carlson as the "Liberal Sherpa."
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Prosecutors said Areu Jones has been sought by the State Attorney’s Office Elder Exploitation Task Force and the Miami-Dade Police Department since an arrest warrant was issued for her in June, but she allegedly relocated several times, including to Mexico, to avoid arrest.
Areu Jones was booked into the Miami-Dade jail early Friday and remained held without bond. Attorney information wasn't available.
The investigation into Areu Jones began in 2019, after the Department of Children and Families received reports that she was exploiting her elderly mother, prosecutors said.
The claims included an allegation that a quitclaim deed had been used to turn the title of the victim’s home over entirely to Areu Jones. The victim denied ever signing the document, officials said.
Areu Jones allegedly made complaints to DCF that various individuals were neglecting or exploiting the victim, whom she allegedly said had organic brain damage or dementia, rendering the victim unable to adequately care for herself, prosecutors said.
Authorities said Areu Jones allegedly used a revoked power of attorney to twice involuntarily place her mother in assisted living and memory care facilities so she could to gain control over her mother’s financial assets.
The first time, Areu Jones tricked her mother into believing that she was going on an ice cream outing with her granddaughters, but the elderly woman ended up locked into an assisted living facility instead, prosecutors said.
The mother was able to call someone she knew for help before Areu Jones instructed the facility to stop her from using the phone or receiving visitors, prosecutors said.
In the second incident, Areu Jones and another person allegedly dragged the elderly woman from her home and took her to another facility, authorities said.
Neighbors who saw the victim’s shoe in her driveway and the front door of the victim’s home left open contacted the police.
In both incidents, investigations and interventions by DCF adult protections investigators and medical doctors led to the victim’s release from the facilities.
When detectives reviewed the victim’s financial affairs, they showed a total loss of over $224,000, including the missing disbursement of the proceeds of a reverse mortgage on the victim’s home that had been voluntarily undertaken by the victim but which all appeared to go into accounts controlled by Areu Jones, prosecutors said.
Detectives also discovered credit cards had been allegedly opened in the victim’s name and utilized by Areu Jones, and the victim’s bank accounts also noted numerous withdrawals which were allegedly utilized by Areu Jones, officials said.
"Every incident of alleged elder exploitation or abuse touches our heart and never fails to shock us. It seems particularly harder to understand when the alleged perpetrator of the exploitation is a daughter, or a son or another blood relative," State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. "Too often, these abuses occur behind closed doors, out of the public’s eye. We, here in MiamiDade County, utilizing all the resources of my State Attorney’s Office Elder Exploitation Task Force and the Miami-Dade Police Department, will not allow these transgressions to go unnoticed and unpunished. Not in our community."
Miami-Dade Police said the investigation is ongoing.
"It is heartbreaking to see one of our most vulnerable victims abused physically, psychologically or financially. Our elderly community paves the path of the future, to ensure we can enjoy our present," Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez said in a statement. "It is our responsibility as a community to show appreciation for their dedicated efforts of ensuring that we have what we have today. We must continue to work together, as the elderly community depends on us to protect them."