Prosecutors won't seek prison, restitution in theft case

October 13, 2011|By DON AINES |

HAGERSTOWN — Prosecutors will not seek a prison sentence or restitution from a Pennsylvania woman who entered an Alford plea to charges of stealing thousands of dollars from an elderly couple.

But the victims’ relatives will be free to argue for both when she is sentenced.

Jackie Sue Carter, 52, of Lancaster, Pa., entered the plea Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court to one felony count of obtaining property of a vulnerable adult of more than $500, according to court records.

Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. delayed sentencing and ordered a presentence investigation.

An Alford plea means that a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges the state has sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.

Nelson Eshelman died on Jan. 11, 2009, and Betty Eshelman died in July 2010, according to charging documents and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Between Jan. 11, 2009, and Feb. 22, 2010, Betty Eshelman’s net worth was reduced from $327,363.01 to $69,368.46, the charging documents said.  

Carter was charged earlier this year with stealing from the Hagerstown couple while serving as their caregiver. She was taken into custody in January in Lancaster at the nursing home where she worked and was extradited to Maryland the following month.

“We’re more interested in incarceration, and if there is any restitution, it would go to some kind of charitable fund for victims,” Diane Hutzell, a niece of the Eshelmans, said after the plea hearing.

Carter, who is free on bond, had been working for an in-home care company in Hagerstown when she was assigned as a caregiver for the Eshelmans in March 2008, according to the documents.

Carter left the company in August 2008. In October, she began working privately for the Eshelmans and was given their power of attorney, the documents said.

The day after Nelson Eshelman died, Carter allegedly cashed in 11 certificates of deposit valued at $89,802.76, the documents said.

Although her power of attorney was revoked in February 2009, the charging documents alleged that Carter attempted to have her name placed on the deed of Betty Eshelman’s home; tried to sell stocks and cash bonds; and continued to withdraw funds from Betty Eshelman’s accounts.

Complaints were filed with Washington County Adult Protective Services in December 2008 concerning financial irregularities in the Eshelmans’ accounts and Carter’s treatment of the couple, the documents said.

The maximum sentence for obtaining property of a vulnerable adult worth more than $500 is 15 years in prison, Assistant State’s Attorney Elizabeth Carranza said. Although prosecutors are not seeking incarceration, they will ask that any sentence restrict Carter from having power of attorney or serving as a caregiver to any vulnerable adult, Carranza said.

Theft scheme, embezzlement and other charges of obtaining property of a vulnerable adult were dismissed as part of a plea agreement, court records said.

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