Tupelo woman faces three charges of exploitation of a vulnerable adult

Mary Smith

A Tupelo caregiver was accused of stealing money from a disabled patient.

Mary A. Smith, 51, was charged Monday after investigators with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the state’s Adult Protective Services spent months looking into the case.

“We were contacted by Adult Protective Services (APS) and they advised us they had been contacted by an anonymous source who knew the victim and they had concerns with his caregiver,” said Lee County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Rachel Chambers, “This source thought Mary Smith had access to the victim’s financial business.”

Authorities did not reveal the identity of the victim. The amount of money stolen by Smith was way past “money in a sock drawer.”

Smith was an independent caregiver who had been working for the victim since March of 2019.

“We started picking things apart and we did find quite a number of discrepancies,” Chambers said. “We found evidence she had been taking large sums of money, from the victim’s bank account for her own personal use.”

The mission of the Adult Protective Services (APS) program is to protect vulnerable persons whose safety and protection may be adversely affected by abuse, neglect, self-neglect or exploitation; raise public awareness, and educate mandated reporters of their reporting responsibilities.

Indicators such as mismanaging money or stealing property, savings, credit cards, unusual activity in bank accounts, misuse of assets by a representative payee. The base amount for that statute is $250 (to make the charge a felony).

“From about mid-February until about March 1, they (APS) were more involved and they started finding out more information — and then they passed it to us,” said Lt. Scotty Reedy. “So we’ve been seriously working this case from around the first of March and the majority of our work was done throughout April. We’re up to thousands of dollars.”

“She’s manipulated and accessed his accounts. She knows she did that,” said Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson. “You see this a lot in chancery matters where you have individuals taking care of loved ones, sometimes family members as caregivers who see they can take advantage of this vulnerable adult. It’s greed that starts to step in. It usually starts out small. ‘I’ll go to the grocery store for you and while I’m there I’m going to buy some of my groceries.’ It just gets worse, and worse and worse.

“It’s just greed. It’s about money.”

Smith was booked into jail on a $75,000 bond set by Lee County Justice Court Judge Chuck Hopkins. She was charged with three counts of exploitation. “The money has already been spent. It’s gone,” Reedy said. “Once it gets to the point of sentencing we’ll ask for restitution to be paid back to him and or to his estate.”

It was not immediately clear if she had a lawyer who could comment on her behalf.

All three law enforcement officers agree careful monitoring would have caught this. “Monitor what’s going on, on a regular basis. Stay in contact with the person. If you see your loved one is not making good financial decisions — make sure some good member of the family has power of attorney, where they can go in and access the loved ones financials and monitor it just like it’s your own checking account,” Johnson said.

Smith made bail within the last 48 hours.

The Lee County Sheriff's Department is located at 510 Commerce Street in Tupelo. Their number is (662) 841-9040.

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