HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Hawaii Kai caregiver accused of defrauding an elderly woman out of more than $600,000 has been formally charged with half a dozen felonies.
Honolulu prosecutors are seeing more and more cases of elder abuse. They say senior citizens are often targeted because they tend to be trusting, are frugal, and have a lot of money saved.
Prosecutors say the caregiver who was indicted Tuesday fraudulently obtained money by convincing an 85-year-old woman to designate power of attorney to her.
Alden Ching's brother is the current owner of a Halawa Drive home that used to belong to Katherine Ganeko, 85. That was until, prosecutors say, her caregiver, Susan Chin, sold it for $639,000 and, without the elderly woman's knowledge or consent, deposited most of the money into her own bank accounts.
"I just think the whole situation is pretty crazy," Ching said upon learning about the criminal case. "I can't imagine, granted she's old, I can't believe people would actually take advantage of the elderly like that."
The suspect, 43, also allegedly surrendered one of Ganeko's annuities and kept the $33,000 in proceeds, then later tried to obtain two additional annuities worth an estimated $130,000.
An Oahu grand jury on Tuesday indicted the caregiver on two counts of first-degree theft, three counts of money laundering, and one count of first-degree attempted theft -- all felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
"It was a person that befriended her, so you have to be careful of who you trust," Keith Kaneshiro, Honolulu prosecutor, said.
There was no response at the suspect's Hawaii Kai home. Her attorney believes the alleged victim wanted those financial transactions to take place.
"Susan and this particular woman who they claim is a victim traveled to New York together. She lived with Susan for a long time," Michael Green, defense attorney, said. "Apparently she really cared about Susan and Susan's children."
Prosecutors say Chin put the money in joint accounts she held with her nine-year-old son, her six-year-old son, and her mother. Authorities have recovered about $500,000.
"A good percentage of the money was in an education account for Susan's children," Green said. "I don't know whether it's true, but I'm told this is what the woman wanted."
Prosecutors say they've seen an increase in the number of elder abuse cases, both physical and financial abuse.
"The elderly are being taken advantage of," Kaneshiro said.
Chin is already scheduled to go to trial in May in an unrelated theft case involving an alleged vacation rental scam. Her attorney in that case, William Harrison, says he will be moving to dismiss that felony count.
A Circuit Court arraignment date for the new set of charges will be set after Chin is served with the grand jury warrant.