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Elderly exploitation case ongoing

Sandusky Register Staff • Sep 27, 2013 at 11:40 AM

The Ohio Attorney General’s office is still investigating a former Marblehead jewelry store owner’s alleged financial exploitation of an elderly woman.

The alleged victim, Eleanor Shaeffer, 81, accused the store owner late last year of failing to make payments on a $30,000 loan she provided. She also accused the suspect of racking up tens of thousands of dollars in debt on Shaeffer’s credit cards and accounts.

The final tally on the alleged bilking is somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000.

Shaeffer was under the impression the suspect had agreed to pay back the loans, but the suspect and her attorney, Troy Wisehart, adamantly dispute this.

It was Shaeffer who approached the store owner with the loan proposal, to help her reopen the jewelry store after it had filed for bankruptcy, Wisehart said.

“(The store owner) wanted the investment made legally and in front of an attorney, until (Shaeffer) said she didn’t want anything in writing,” Wisehart said.

Ottawa County prosecutor Mark Mulligan acknowledged the complexity of the case in March, when he reached out to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation for help. In a letter to Edward Biederstedt, supervisor of BCI’s Major Crimes Unit, Mulligan asked, “Were the funds loaned or stolen? Is the alleged victim competent?”

These questions remain unanswered, and BCI agents have yet to reveal any findings.

Mulligan turned to the BCI particularly for its forensic accounting resources, given the many apparent discrepancies from people on both sides of the case. While Shaeffer believes she is the victim, the owner has accused her of taking inventory from the store. In a Danbury Township police report from December 2012, however, Shaeffer said she went to the store to take back about $50,000 worth of jewelry.

“This obviously ruined any chance of (the store owner) re-paying the money,” Wisehart said.

The store owner also said her company’s computer was being held hostage in Michigan.

“I would love to provide you with all of my expense reports, but they are in my computer that (Shaeffer) has in Michigan,” the owner wrote in an April letter to Wisehart.

The case is now six months running.

“We are moving as fast as we can,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “Oftentimes, what appears to be a simple, single lead can turn into five leads. It is the nature of any investigation.”

In an effort to protect senior citizens from financial exploitation, DeWine introduced the Ohio Elder Justice Act earlier this year.

“We have an obligation to protect all Ohio families, but we’ve noticed that seniors are especially targeted,” DeWine said.

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