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Elderly abuse probe grows old

Register • Aug 28, 2014 at 2:59 PM

A year later, not much has changed.

A spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Wednesday an investigation of an elderly financial abuse complaint is ongoing.

DeWine refused to respond to specific questions about the investigation or provide any time table as to when it might get finished.

His spokesman Dan Tierney replied to the inquiry, but his reply was not responsive to most of the questions asked.

Tierney's comments mirrored what DeWine told the Register a year ago when asked for a status update. 

"We are moving as fast as we can." DeWine told the Register in September 2013. 

The victim and her family contend the owner of a jewelry store in Ottawa County bilked the woman out of more than $200,000, using her credit card and gaining access to other funds. 

Ottawa County Prosecutor Mark Mulligan refused to seek any criminal indictments, but he later asked for assistance from Dewine to review the accounting evidence the family provided. 

DeWine has been investigating the elderly financial abuse allegation for 18 months.

Fighting elderly financial abuse crime is a top priority for DeWine, according to his re-election campaign. 

"The Attorney General's Office will work with local officials and advocates to identify, investigate and prosecute elder abuse cases and increase services to victims," DeWine stated in a news release the campaign provided in May. 

The alleged victim in the local case, Eleanor Shaeffer, 82, was injured recently after a fall in her home and hospitalized. 

Tierney also was unable to provide any time table for the investigation.

"The length of time in this ongoing investigation is due to the large amount of forensic accounting involved," Tierney said. "Forensic accounting is a time consuming process, but an essential element of criminal financial investigations. Forensic accounting is still taking place in this investigation, and we cannot provide an estimate as to how much longer it may take."

But a source close to the probe provided information to the Register suggesting the investigation was beset by inaction.

The source said the prosecutor handling the case, Micah Ault, intended to forward information to the suspect's attorney for review prior to making a decision about bringing evidence to a grand jury.

The delays aren't because the investigation is continuing or due to a need for more forensic research as Tierney suggested, the source said.

There's no forward motion on the investigation because of inaction in the AG's office. 

"I fear another dog and pony show coming from yet another of DeWine's prosecutors," the source told the AG's office.  

Ault did not respond to a telephone message seeking comment. 

DeWine's refusal to answer questions about the investigation is the same stance he's taken with other investigations being conducted by his office that seem to be languishing.

DeWine also has refused to respond to questions about his direct involvement in a sexual harassment investigation inside the attorney general's office last year involving a personal friend of DeWine's. 

That investigation was closed down after DeWine interfered with the independent investigator's efforts to identify the alleged harasser.

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