Criminal Sentence Sends Message for Elder Financial Abuse--Boulder, CO

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According to the Boulder Camera, Jan 18, 2014, a 54-year-old woman was sentenced to five years in prison and 20 years of probation Friday for scamming an elderly couple of almost $600,000 over the span of seven years.

Michelle Ann Hebert was found guilty in early December on two counts of theft from an at-risk adult — a Class 3 felony — as well as eight tax related charges by a jury after a four-day trial.

Boulder District Judge Andrew Butler handed down the sentence at Hebert’s hearing Friday morning. Hebert was facing a maximum of 12 years for the theft charge.

While prosecutors were seeking prison term longer than five years, Deputy District Attorney Jane Walsh said after the hearing that the sentence still sent a message that crimes against the elderly are taken seriously. Walsh said about half of all crimes involving elderly victims are financial crimes.

“I think its a sentence that reflects her lengthy period of offending behavior and also lets the community know that people who prey on the elderly will be punished and held accountable in Boulder County,” Walsh said.

“When people take advantage of the vulnerable, the criminal justice system is here to make sure those people are held accountable.”

According to an arrest affidavit, Hebert met the victims, Howard and Charlotte Krasnoff, in 2001 when Howard Krasnoff, 89, became a patient at a Longmont eye clinic where Hebert worked as a receptionist.

The Krasnoffs said Hebert’s behavior toward Howard was “flirtatious,” and that she would often show him pictures of her daughter because he had a soft spot for children. He also had several medial issues, including Parkinson’s disease and memory issues.

In 2005, Hebert showed up at the Krasnoffs’ door and asked for a $300 loan to help pay for living expenses, according to court records. The Krasnoffs were confused by the request, but gave her the money because they knew her and thought she was a good person. Hebert did pay back the $300 loan.

But after that Hebert began seeing Howard Krasnoff — a psychotherapist — as a patient and asked him for more money. She told him stories about how her daughter was sick or that she was afraid of her ex-husbands when asking for loans, sometimes ranging in the thousands of dollars.

Hebert told the Krasnoffs she would pay them back when she won a multi-million dollar lawsuit she said she had filed or sold her house in Wyoming, but none of the loans were ever repaid.

She also used a credit card belonging to Howard Krasnoff to make purchases until he cancelled the card.

The Krasnoffs finally brought their case forward to investigators in April.

“I think that the breach of trust…that was the worst part of this case,” Walsh said.

Howard Krasnoff passed away on Oct. 3, but was able to give a recorded deposition that was played for the jury, and Charlotte Krasnoff testified at the trial in person.

Charlotte Krasnoff was also at the sentencing hearing but did not address the court.