A Texas appellate court upheld the conviction of a POA agent under a power of attorney who transferred funds to himself. The POA contended that he did this to qualify his former grandmother-in-law for Medicaid. In the earlier court trial before a jury, the POA was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Natho v. State (Tex. Ct. App., 3rd Dist., No. 03-11-00498-CR, Feb. 6, 2014).
The principal, Rosie Shelton, signed a power of attorney, appointing her former grandson-in-law, Ronnie Natho, as her POA agent. The power of attorney gave Mr. Natho the power to act on her behalf, including with regard to Medicaid issues, but it did not give him the authority to make gifts on her behalf.
Coincidentally, Mr. Natho was also the sole beneficiary under Ms. Shelton’s will. When Ms. Shelton went to a nursing home, Mr. Natho gifted himself her car and then consulted with an attorney who helps clients qualify for Medicaid. The attorney informed Mr. Natho that he could spend down Ms. Shelton's money and it was acceptable for him to make gifts to himself as long as Ms. Shelton's needs were met. This was bad advice, in my opinion. Mr. Natho then transferred Ms. Shelton's life insurance policy to himself and gave himself other gifts as well.
When the principal discovered the transfers, she revoked Mr. Natho's power of attorney. Criminal charges were filed against Mr. Natho. NC Note: there are laws in the General Statutes that address elder abuse as well as embezzlement, misappropriation, breach of fiduciary duty. A jury convicted Mr. Natho of misapplication of an elderly person's fiduciary property, and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. Mr. Natho appealed, arguing he was acting in Ms. Shelton's best interest to qualify her for Medicaid.
The Texas Court of Appeal affirmed his conviction, holding the evidence was sufficient to find Mr. Natho misapplied Ms. Shelton's assets. The court rules that the fact that the power of attorney did not give Mr. Natho the power to make gifts, that he gifted himself the car before he consulted with the attorney, plus that the car and insurance policy would have been excluded from a Medicaid eligibility determination, show that Mr. Natho wasn't acting to benefit Ms. Shelton.
If you or someone you know has had POA abuse, contact Kirk Sanders at 336-724-4707
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