US lawmen probed as woman with dementia ends up in PH
NORTH HIGHLANDS, California — Two California law enforcement officers are being investigated on allegations of stealing money from a 75-year-old woman with dementia, listing her home for sale and putting her on a plane to the Philippines, where she had family.
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department said this week that it began investigating the deputies in late January after someone raised concerns about the welfare and whereabouts of Rosalie Santallan Achiu, who had not been seen in days.
Federal and sheriff’s investigators found Achiu in the Philippines, where she was staying with relatives, the department said. They also found “many unusual activities by both deputies, both on and off duty.”
Stephanie Angel, 14-year veteran of the agency, and an unidentified male deputy with the department for six years were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of “the criminal and administrative investigations,” the department said.
Officials gave no other details.
‘No elder abuse’
Richard Chan, an attorney for Angel, said she was acting in Achiu’s best interest and did everything at Achiu’s request, including preparing the woman’s house for sale and buying her a plane ticket.
“There wasn’t any financial, elder abuse that occurred,” Chan told The Associated Press (AP). “She was assisting this lady and following this lady’s wishes, there’s been absolutely no financial benefit to Deputy Angel whatsoever.”
Achiu met the deputies in mid-January during a call for service, according to court documents first obtained by Sacramento news station KTXL-TV.
Shortly after meeting the deputies, Achiu was moved into Angel’s home, Michael Abrate, an attorney for Achiu’s family, said in a petition for conservatorship, in which a court names someone to care for another adult.
Over the next couple of weeks, Achiu’s house was listed for sale, several withdrawals were made from her bank accounts and one of the deputies opened a joint bank account with Achiu, Abrate said.
The deputies also accompanied Achiu to her bank and had it drill out the locks of her safe deposit box. Later that day, the deputies applied for a passport for Achiu on a website called RushMyPassport.com, Abrate said.
Achiu, who has no children or any other relatives living in California, “suffers from dementia and lacks the capacity to resist fraud or provide informed consent,” he said.
The deputies were granted power of attorney and named the agents on her living will on Jan. 30. Days later, one of the deputies bought a one-way plane ticket to the Philippines for Achiu, who arrived on Feb. 3, Abrate said.
Investigators found her there on Feb. 14, and she told them she wanted to return to the United States. She has been at a hospital since Feb. 21, when she returned to California, her family’s attorney said.
Chan, Angel’s attorney, offered a different story. He said Angel took Achiu to doctors who believed she did not have dementia and was fine to travel. Angel took over power of attorney because Achiu had not been caring for herself living in a filthy house and sleeping in a chair, he said.
Angel never spoke to Achiu’s family before sending her the Philippines but spoke to them after Achiu arrived, Chan said. Before putting her on the plane, Angel confirmed checks Achiu was sending to a brother had been cashed and gave Achiu copies of her medical records and contact information in case anything went wrong.
Chan did not provide a clear explanation for why Angel felt comfortable sending Achiu to the Philippines alone.
“All I can tell you is she did what Rosalie wanted her to do,” the attorney said.
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