Guilty pleas in elder financial abuse spur call for legislative action - The Buffalo News

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Guilty pleas in elder financial abuse spur call for legislative action

Three cases of elder financial abuse totaling nearly a half million dollars have led Erie County’s top prosecutor to call for legislative action.

District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III on Wednesday urged state lawmakers to approve a package of bills that would help prevent and combat such crimes.

“There is simply no good reason to continue to dawdle, dither and haggle while our seniors continue to be exploited by this especially low form of swindler,” he said.

Sedita issued his call for action after three people pleaded guilty this week in three separate cases to taking financial advantage of elderly people.

• Clayton G. Schunk, 63, of Willow Drive, Hamburg, pleaded guilty as charged Wednesday to second-degree grand larceny before State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski. He admitted that between Jan. 1, 2007 and Jan. 1, 2014, he stole $247,800 from a trust established for his 85-year-old mother, who lives near him.

He gained access to the trust by using a power of attorney, according to Assistant District Attorney Candace K. Vogel. He acknowledged spending most of the money on gambling. Schunk faces a maximum 15-year prison term when he is sentenced Sept. 25.

• Kimberly Olive, 48, of Halbert Street, Buffalo, pleaded guilty Tuesday as charged to first-degree scheme to defraud, second-degree identity theft and third-degree grand larceny before Michalski. She admitted that from April 1, 2009, to March 21, 2014, while working as a home health-care aide, she gained the trust of three people she was taking care of – ages 68, 88 and 89 – and stole their identities to purchase $5,845 in clothing, jewelry and personal services, according to Assistant District Attorney Gary M. Ertel. She faces up to 11 years in prison at sentencing Sept. 19.

• Donald E. Gubbins, 64, of Webster Street, North Tonawanda, pleaded guilty Monday as charged to second-degree grand larceny before Michalski. He admitted abusing the power of attorney, which his 87-year-old aunt granted him, to steal $215,121 from her bank account between Jan. 1, 2008 and Jan. 1, 2014 while she was living in a nursing home in Erie County, according to Vogel.

Gubbins claimed that he used most of the embezzled money to keep his business out of debt.

He faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 1.

Sedita said the three cases show the need for the Legislature to act on the legislation package, sponsored by Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger, D-Kenmore, and State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma.

The bills are based on the recommendations of the New York State White Collar Crime Task Force, on which Sedita served as co-chairman. The task force report was released last September by the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York.


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