In Minnesota, death not a barrier to elder scam suits



Mary Crispin and Diane Restrepo

It was an old-fashioned swindle of a vulnerable adult with a new twist: Although the victim, who suffered from dementia, died 17 months ago, a new law will enable his family to seek restitution.

Unlike the other estimated 30,000 exploitation cases reported each year in Minnesota involving vulnerable seniors, this is expected to be the first to test a groundbreaking state law sponsored by a legislator who is now the prosecutor in this case. Under the law, adopted last month, Donald Crispin’s family can legally ask for restitution for the financial hardship their father suffered when, authorities say, “professional scammers” persuaded him to withdraw $65,000 from his bank account and then took off with money, jewelry and a car they talked him into buying.

“The case doesn’t end with the death of the victim,” said Iris Freeman, associate director for the Center of Elder Justice and Policy at William Mitchell College of Law.

Crispin’s saga serves not only as a warning to felon Steven Miller and his alleged accomplice, Marina Lahara, who authorities say moved often and used many aliases to avoid police for nearly four years before her arrest this month. It offers a painful reminder to families of how vulnerable seniors can be.

Miller and Lahara didn’t hack into Crispin’s personal life through computers. They allegedly stole mail. They also met victims face to face, convinced them that the two knew them and then allegedly stole thousands of dollars from seniors in Hennepin and Anoka counties, authorities say.

Donald Crispin didn’t seem vulnerable. He was 82, an ex-Marine who kept in good shape and had worked well into his 70s. He lived alone in Fridley, handling his own finances while talking to his four daughters daily. Nobody suspected he had dementia.

“My dad passed his pilot’s license test in his 70s,” said one of his daughters, Diane Restrepo, of Chanhassen. “After he retired as a carpenter, he ran a liquor store in northeast Minneapolis for 10 years. He paid his own bills, and on time. He was driving.

“This dementia happened suddenly.”

In 2009, Crispin met Miller and Lahara, who claimed they were brother and sister, according to court records. Within weeks, the records say, Crispin proposed to Lahara, who was 35 but told Crispin she was 62 and that her name was Mary Miller. Between Oct. 7 and Nov. 30, a total of $65,807.88 was withdrawn from Crispin’s bank account — allegedly at the request of Miller and Lahara — for two engagement rings, a 2008 Hummer and property that Crispin was told he would partly own, but never saw, authorities say.

Days later, Miller and Lahara vanished.

Full Article and Source:
In Minnesota, death not a barrier to elder scam suits

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3 Responses to “In Minnesota, death not a barrier to elder scam suits”

  1. Thelma Says:

    What a pair! Good thing the State is beginning to take action against scammers.

  2. Finny Says:

    Wonderful news on the law and it's an important one as the name of many bad guardian's game is delay. And that won't work in MN.

  3. Celeste Says:

    Cool!

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