A Cautionary Tale of Alleged Elder Abuse

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Mary Weiss lost her son, while he was enrolled in a controversial drug study at the University of Minnesota. The case drew worldwide attention. Weiss is now facing the loss of her home and retirement savings, after being taken advantage of by someone she trusted, according to police.

This is a sad story that illustrates how even the smartest person can be vulnerable and preyed upon by someone they know and trust. Mary Weiss has endured the violent death of her son, four strokes and a heart attack, says Fox 9 in its report titled “Woman, who helped change research protocols at U of M, allegedly loses savings to caregiver.”

The person she depended on throughout it all, is the one who is suspected of taking advantage of her trusting nature. She says she was financially ruined and her nest egg of $150,000 is gone. Debt from credit cards and loans taken out in her name without her consent is mounting.

Weiss gained international attention for her battle with the University of Minnesota researchers who ran a research study of a psychiatric drug. Her son took his own life, while enrolled in the study. Because of her fight, the University made a number of changes to its research programs.

The man she believes has ripped her off, stood by her during that battle, speaking to reporters on her behalf. However, now he has been charged with one count of theft by swindle by the Washington County Attorney, following an investigation by the Cottage Grove Police Department.

Howard lived with Weiss, although they were not romantically involved, for 10 years and had become her caregiver. She had suffered a series of strokes and gave him power of attorney over her financial matters.

Weiss knew that Howard had a record, including a theft by swindle conviction, but she never thought he would do something bad to her.

It was Weiss’ niece who discovered the problem this past spring, when she was going through a year’s worth of bank statements. ATM withdrawals, lottery ticket purchases, loans and credit cards were all done in her name. Washington County Human Services did a separate investigation and notified Weiss that an allegation of financial exploitation had been substantiated.

Howard denies taking anything without Weiss’ consent.

Weiss is currently living in a nursing home and is recovering from a fall. She said that she would like to return to her townhome but is not sure she will be able to afford to do that. She wants others to understand that this can happen to anyone, even with full control of their senses and no dementia.

Elder financial abuse is a growing problem, as the number of seniors rises. Having a family member who is actively involved and looking out for aging family members is one of several ways to prevent elder abuse from a stranger. However, it is often a family member who is committing the crime.

Reference: Fox 9 (Oct. 22, 2018) “Woman, who helped change research protocols at U of M, allegedly loses savings to caregiver”

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