86-year-old woman lost nearly $300k
By: Mary Mitchell - Sun-Times Columnist
Some robbers use a gun, some use power of attorney
Source: Chicago Sun Times
Dated: April 10, 2007
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When a criminal knocks an elderly woman down and snatches her purse, his or her face will be all over the nightly news.
But there's no telling how many feeble old people are being legally robbed by fake do-gooders.
Karen Bailey, who has worked as a secretary for Cook County Commissioner Jerry Butler for 14 years, appears to be one of those fakers.
Last week, a judge in the Probate Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County found that Bailey had not acted to the benefit of Mary Ann Wilson, an 86-year-old black woman who lives on the Far South Side. The judge entered a $297,708.95 judgment against Bailey, who has known Wilson for at least a decade.
But it would be a miracle if Bailey has a dime of the money left.
Most of the withdrawals were in huge chunks of cash. At one point, nearly $85,000 was being kept in a closet in Wilson's home, and Bailey and her husband allegedly were buying luxury cars and acquiring property.
Bailey, who lives in Crete, managed to gain Wilson's trust to the point that she supplanted Wilson's blood relatives. A power of attorney allegedly signed by Wilson gave Bailey access to every dime.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of this case is that Bailey's husband's father, Clifford Service, who also suffers from diminished mental health, ended up married to Wilson -- in a ceremony neither one of them recalls -- an arrangement that gave Bailey, the daughter-in-law, unconditional access to Wilson's fortune.
In August 2005, Wilson was the owner of approximately $392,000 in three accounts, according to court documents.
In less than a year, those accounts were down to $3,700.09.
Arnetta Williams, a distant cousin of Wilson's, apparently got wind of what was going on and took the matter to probate court. Besides entering the judgment, the court ruled that Bailey had failed in her fiduciary responsibility, and revoked the power of attorney.
"Wilson was declining [mentally and physically] and Mrs. Bailey did not help," said one of the attorneys who represented Williams, now a court-appointed guardian.
Bailey could not be reached for comment, but her Sept. 6, 2006, deposition revealed dozens of questionable transactions.
For instance, on December 11, 2005, she withdrew $4,200 from Wilson's account -- $3,000 in cash and $1,200 in the form of a check made payable to Jerry Butler.
Bailey was questioned about that payment by Sheryl A. Fuhr, a lawyer for Williams:
Q. What was the purpose of the check made payable to Jerry Butler.
A. He loaned Mr. Service money to help bury his son.
Q. Whose son?
A. Clifford Service's son.
Q. This would be your husband's brother?
Q. And how did it come about that he needed to borrow money from Mr. Butler?
A. Obviously they didn't have enough money to bury him.
Butler said he didn't know anything about the lawsuit, but that his secretary "probably gave me a $1,200 check to repay me for a $1,200 loan."
The next day, Bailey got an official bank check for $6,200, but said she didn't recall what happened to the funds. When asked by an attorney what she did with cash withdrawals from Wilson's account, Bailey responded "I don't recall" more than 20 times -- despite the fact that nearly $300,000 of Wilson's money vanished.
The street punk isn't the only crook families should be worried about.
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