Elder Abuse Case of Note: People v. Remmert

In September 2017 an East Palo Alto women was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for financial elder abuse.  The prosecutors in the case, including San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, did an excellent job seeing the case against Shirley Remmert to conclusion.

As an elder abuse practitioner it is heartening to see a stiff sentence in a case that presents a fact pattern that is all too familiar.  According to court documents Ms. Remmert was providing in-home care to her 97 year old aunt who had mental impairments.  Ms. Remmert allegedly had her aunt sign a quit claim deed to her home; however, the aunt had no idea that she did not still own her home.  Also at issue were unauthorized bank withdrawals which family members noticed and reported to the bank.  According to news reports the District Attorney, Public Guardian’s Office, Adult Protective Services, and East Palo Alto Police all played a part in seeing that justice was done.

Families of elder abuse victims often wonder why their complaints to law enforcement have not led to criminal prosecution.  There are many factors at play:  Financial elder abuse cases are resource intensive.  Elder abuse most often occurs behind closed doors, making circumstantial evidence important.  For a criminal conviction there must be a unanimous verdict – a very high bar. 

Victims of elder abuse should report the abuse to law enforcement – even if the report does not lead to a criminal charge it is important that law enforcement knows what happened.  Oftentimes abusers defraud multiple victims, each report helps build a case.  Victims should also consider consulting with a civil attorney.  California has strong laws designed to protect senior citizens. 

Our firm, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP represents senior citizens in financial and physical elder abuse cases.  We have a long track record in these fields.