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Thursday, July 24, 2003
By Mike Wells
A Chaffee woman pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to defrauding an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease out of more than $10,000 in credit-card purchases.
Linda Gale Moore, 56, appeared solemn and dressed in black when she arrived at the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey in Cape Girardeau. She answered his questions in mostly two-word sentences of, “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir.”
In doing so, Moore admitted that during 2000 she befriended June Stubbs, 72, of Chaffee, and used several of Stubbs’ credit cards for personal purchases.
The spending went unnoticed until Moore bought cigarettes at a Chaffee store on Sept. 11, 2000, with one of Stubbs’ cards, said the victim’s son, Neil Stubbs of St. Louis. A suspicious store clerk called the Chaffee Police Department, which began an investigation.
Police handed the case over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation because several credit card purchases were made with out-of-state businesses.
When Moore was asked by Judge Autrey if she understood what she was pleading guilty to, she quietly responded, “for frauding Miss Stubbs.” He accepted Moore’s plea and set sentencing for Oct. 8. Moore faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Sorrell handled the prosecution. The total loss may turn out to be “quite a bit more” than $10,000, he said.
Neil Stubbs said his mother’s credit report showed about $76,740 in unexplained purchases made in his mother’s name. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2000.
The victimization suffered by Stubbs is all too common, said Cheryl Klueppel of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Cape Girardeau office. Klueppel has assisted the family.
“It happens probably more than we hear about and often people are hesitant to report it,” she said.
Many victims don’t speak out because they are embarrassed or the amount of loss was relatively small, she said.
According to “First Response,” a guidebook for law enforcement published by the U.S. Department of Justice, one in five Americans has a mental or physical impairment, putting them at a higher risk of criminal victimization. In addition, these people are often victimized more than once by the same perpetrator.
Sorrell expects Moore to receive some prison time, if not a combination of prison and home detention, he said. However, federal public defender Jeff Rosenswank is hoping for probation. He asked Autrey to consider Moore’s bipolarism and post-traumatic stress disorder and that she is taking antidepressant medications.
“Because she has no prior criminal history, there’s a good chance she’ll be eligible for probation,” he said, adding that she can more likely pay restitution if she is not imprisoned.
But for June Stubbs, whose Chaffee home was later sold at a loss to cover expenses, restitution can’t come soon enough, her son said. She has since relocated to a nursing home near Arnold, Mo., and no longer has the capacity to understand what happened.
“She doesn’t even know who I am now,” he said. “She’s in what may be the middle to late stages of the disease.”
Some of the credit companies sought to make her family members pay for the purchases, despite the case against Moore, Neil Stubbs said.
“They want somebody to pay,” he said. “They don’t care who.”
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