BROOKVILLE, Md. (WJLA) - In the last two weeks, police have charged three women with stealing from the elderly in Montgomery County. What's most startling, all three worked at homes for senior citizens.
The cases, which detectives say are not connected, occurred at the Ring House in Rockville, the Brookeville House in Brookeville, and ManorCare Health Services in Silver Spring.
"We're the luxury end of assisted living," Brookeville House co-owner George Pappas stated. "The cornerstone to our business is personalized attention and care."
In 2009, Pappas and his wife, Evelyn, turned their country home into a B&B-style assisted living community. The duo marketed their property as a "warm home environment" where one could "relax in the country." In fact, business was so successful, the couple quickly opened a second home, and today cares for 13 residents.
"Oh we'll do à la carte. We'll do oatmeal or do pancakes," Pappas boasted as he walked through the gourmet kitchen at the flagship facility along the 2500 block of Brown Farm Court.
In 2012, Pappas hired Teresa Shafer, 37, to work as a nurse. The then 35-year-old was quickly promoted to house manager, much in part to her kind spirit, strong work ethic and stellar performance. Shafer's supervisory role granted her access to keys, passwords and resident mail, among other things.
According to Montgomery County District Court records, Shafer recently intercepted an annuity payment mailed to one of her clients, an 84-year-old woman suffering from dementia. Shafer, it's alleged, forged the resident's signature, and then cashed the $1,289.11 check at a local bank. The resident's son, who manages his mother's finances, saw the monetary discrepancy, and emailed Pappas for answers.
"I was shocked, in absolute shock," Pappas stated. "You work hard for your employees each and every day, and when someone violates that trust, we take exception to it."
Pappas, who formerly worked as a private investigator, reported the crime to multiple state and local agencies, including the Montgomery County Police Department. He then fired Shafer on the spot.
"There's no tolerance for anyone that would take advantage of young children or the elderly, there's just zero tolerance for that," Pappas added.
About 10 miles away, staff at the Ring House in Rockville are also coming to terms with a strikingly similar, but unconnected crime.
Investigators say Eboni Princess Janelle Green, 26, an administrative assistant at the popular independent living center, attempted to stiff a senior citizen to the tune of $3,754.23.
Charging documents state, a 98-year-old man brought a blank check to the Ring House's front office. The check was to be made out to a local utility company, however, Green reportedly jotted down her name instead. Police say the Fort Washington resident attempted to cash the forged check at a Bank of America branch, where an observant teller sniffed-out the ploy, and contacted the authorities.
ABC7 called Green by phone Thursday. A woman, who identified herself as a family member, claimed she had not heard about the charges, but would have Green return our phone call. We never heard back.
"We take honesty and integrity of staff very seriously, and certainly something like this is cause for immediate dismissal," Ring House spokeswoman Marilyn Feldman said. "We have a zero tolerance policy toward theft, and we took immediate action in this case."
And then there's the case of Tamico Martin, 44, of Silver Spring, which ABC7 first reported Tuesday. Martin, a contracted staff member at ManorCare Health Services in Silver Spring, is accused of conning an 88-year-old World War II veteran out of his overdue military subsidies. The crime, which police say occurred over a 14-month period, siphoned more than $13,000 from the retired vet's bank account. Martin is no longer employed by the Toledo, Ohio based company.
For Pappas, the experience has been a learning lesson, albeit an upsetting one. He's lost trust in humanity, and like his 84-year-old resident, also feels victimized.
"I'm disappointed that you could do all the due diligence that you're supposed to do, criminal background checks, references, everything that a good company is supposed to do, and you could still be violated," Pappas concluded. "It's sickening, absolutely sickening."