Fraud Awareness Week: Woman takes advantage of Mobile man’s dementia

Updated: Nov. 11, 2019 at 4:45 PM CST
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Sheryl McCurry vividly recalls when she found out her dementia-impaired brother had been victimized.

It was 2016, the Mobile woman said, when she noticed Royce McCurry’s Belk credit card statement had a $20,000 balance. Most of the charges, she said, were for items only a woman would buy.

Court records show that the woman who took advantage of McCurry pleaded guilty last year to exploitation of assets. A Mobile County judge sentenced her to two years’ probation and ordered her pay the victim more than $2,000 in restitution.

But Sheryl McCurry said it only is a fraction of what her brother lost. As a result, she said, her brother had to move from Sommerby Senior Living to a nursing home and, ultimately, to a group home.

“It broke my heart,” she said. “It really and truly did.”

McCurry’s case is one of several FOX10 News is highlighting this week to spotlight crimes committed without guns or masks. Next week, as part of International Fraud Awareness Week, the station will host a telethon manned by prosecutors and law enforcement officials seeking tips from white-collar crime victims.

“They are incredibly common,” said Mobile County Assistant District Clay Rossi, who heads the office’s white-collar crime unit. “So, I would say probably once a month, there’ll be at least accusations of it.”

At the request of McCurry’s relatives, who fear retaliation, FOX10 News has agreed not to identify the woman who took advantage of him.

Sheryl McCurry said her brother, 77, worked 22 years at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Mobile, advancing to production manager before a layoff pushed him to a second career as a flooring salesman. Along the way, he raised two children, was a fanatical golfer and enjoyed University of South Alabama baseball games.

Sheryl McCurry said the defendant befriended her brother at a grocery store and eventually took advantage of his generous nature and his cognitive decline.

McCurry said she and her sister at one point confronted the woman.

“My sister and I both begged her to leave him alone. Just leave him alone,” she said. “She didn’t.”

The case had an added wrinkle. Rossi said the defendant had persuaded McCurry to sign a notarized statement saying that many of the charges were authorized. That frustrated efforts to gain full restitution, he said.

Rossi said family members should intervene as early as possible.

“Once you discover that there is a problem with somebody that they’ve been associating with, cut off contact between your loved one and that individual,” he said. “If the contact continues, it can make it more difficult for us to prosecute.”