Jacksonville, FL - With a Jacksonville attorney now charged with stealing from her elderly clients, the Florida Department of Children and Families is warning this could be a growing problem.
“Especially in a state like Florida where you have a somewhat older population,” says DCF Spokesman John Harrell.
Harrell tells WOKV that aging population means a potentially large pool of victims, and DCF does believe there could be more victims in this case and others.
Jacksonville Attorney Cynthia Nichols is charged with grand theft and exploiting the elderly. She has been practicing law in Florida since 1981 and faces prison time if convicted. Nichols’ victims say she was supposed to be a guardian on a family member’s account, but used the money for her own gain.
“The families trust that these guardians will be able to do the right thing when it comes to spending funds only for the person who they’re acting as a guardian for,” Harrell says.
But in this case, Nichols is accused of using the money for a home, car and other things.
Harrell says preventing this kind of theft could first and foremost come down to you.
“If someone is buying a car for someone who can’t drive, then that’s a red flag,” he says.
Harrell says family members need to keep an eye on spending that is controlled by a guardian in order to see these red flags. Another common one is if there is furniture being purchased, but your family members lives in a nursing home or other facility.
If you do suspect abuse, you can call the DCF Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.