A Florida mother and daughter bought a house, 2 cars with a dementia patient’s $542,000

Miami Herald

A Florida mother and daughter bought a house, 2 cars with a dementia patient’s $542,000

David J. Neal – March 13, 2023

Lee County Property Appraiser

Two Southwest Florida women hired to care for a 92-year-old woman with dementia instead cared only for the $542,760 they could steal from her financial accounts over two years. With that money, they bought a five-bedroom, four-bathroom house, two cars, paid off student loans and made credit card payments.

That’s all in the plea agreements of Cape Coral’s Diane Durbon, 58, and daughter Brittany Lukasik, 29, each of whom pleaded guilty in Fort Myers federal court to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Lukasik also pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return because, as generations of criminals back to Al Capone have learned, the IRS still counts criminal income as income to be reported.

Mother and daughter each are free on $50,000 bond, have handed over their passports and can’t leave the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida before sentencing.

READ MORE: We learned how to fight scams targeting the elderly. But, $25,000 too late — Opinion

Family care, elder abuse and Florida fraud

What follows comes from Durbon and Lukasik’s plea agreements.- ADVERTISEMENT -https://s.yimg.com/rq/darla/4-10-1/html/r-sf-flx.html

Just before Lukasik became a licensed registered nurse in 2016, they were hired by a woman to take care of her aunt “T.H.,” a 92-year-old with dementia. Durbon and Lukasik would get a combined $2,400 a month to stop by T.H.’s North Fort Myers home daily, make sure she ate and “provide … social interaction.”

In October 2017, Durbon put T.H. on the phone with Vanguard as part of a plan to get into T.H.’s Vanguard investment accounts.

“A review of interior surveillance video footage from cameras Durbon had installed inside of T.H.’s home showed Durbon putting a script that contained the answers to the Vanguard security questions in front of T.H. before and during each phone call,” Durbon’s plea agreement says. “Additionally, before some of the calls, Durbon was captured on surveillance pointing to different portions of the script to prepare T.H. for the call.”

After coaching T.H. into authorizing Durbon as her spokesperson, Durbon moved money from the investment accounts to a prime market money account. That checking account powers allowed Durbon to order many checks (using the excuse that T.H. didn’t like to be out of checks) and write checks worth $1,000 to $9,600 to Lukasik. In this manner, the fraudulent family stole $231,659 from T.H. between November 2017 and July 2019.

During that time, in November 2018, Durbon got into T.H.’s TransAmerica annuity policy, using a similar coaching-and-phone call method to get T.H. to cash out the annuity. When TransAmerica questioned Durbon about her actions, she said T.H. was her aunt.

Durbon’s fraud induced TransAmerica to issue a $244,521 check to T.H. That check got put in T.H.’s Wells Fargo account, from which 92 checks totaling $372,092 were issued to Lukasik between February 2019 and March 2020.

What fraud on the Florida family plan bought

With the stolen money, Lukasik paid off $29,000 in student loans and made $100,000 of credit card payments. She spent $17,735 to pay off her 2016 Nissan Rogue and bought mom a 2018 Nissan Rogue for $26,354. In March 2019, she bought a five-bedroom, four-bathroom duplex at 544/546 SE Fifth Ave. in Cape Coral, then spent $100,000 on electronics, furnishings and remodeling.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Secret Service and the IRS-Criminal Investigation unit investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Trent Reichling handled the prosecution.

Author: John Hanno

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Bogan High School. Worked in Alaska after the earthquake. Joined U.S. Army at 17. Sergeant, B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 84th Artillery, 7th Army. Member of 12 different unions, including 4 different locals of the I.B.E.W. Worked for fortune 50, 100 and 200 companies as an industrial electrician, electrical/electronic technician.