Maryland criminal defense attorneys are seeing more prosecutions involving the exploitation of vulnerable adults. Section 8-801 of the Maryland Code Annotated, Criminal Law provides for a criminal action against a person who exploits a vulnerable adult. The elements are:
1. The victim is a vulnerable adult
a. A vulnerable adult, as defined in § 3-604 of the Criminal Law Article is an adult who lacks the physical or mental capacity to provide for the adult’s daily needs.
b. § 8-801(b)(2) prohibits exploitation of an individual who is “at least 68 years old” and does not appear to require the victim in this case to be classified as a “vulnerable adult”
2. The defendant knew or should have known that the victim was a vulnerable adult 3. The defendant knowingly and willfully obtained possession to the victim’s property by deception, intimidation, or undue influence, and a. Undue influence does not include the normal influence that one member of a family has over another member of the family, but means domination and influence amounting to force and coercion such that the vulnerable adult of individual over 68 years old was prevented from exercising free judgment and choice.
b. Deception is defined in § 7-101 and states that deception occurs when “a person knowingly either creates or confirms in another a false impression that the offender does not believe to be true or fails to correct a false impression that the offender previously has created or confirmed.
4. The defendant intended to deprive the victim of her property.
A person is guilty of conspiracy to exploit a vulnerable adult under Section 8-801 where the State can prove that:
a. An unlawful agreement was entered into by two or more persons,
b. To deprive a vulnerable adult of the vulnerable adult’s property by deception, intimidation, or undue influence.
In Tarray v. State, Ms. Tarray was convicted of exploitation of a vulnerable adult and conspiracy to commit that offense. Ms. Tarray was a live-in caregiver for the victim, Mr. Wright, who had physical disabilities but worked full time from home as a defense contractor. During her time as a caregiver, Ms. Tarray charged excessive wages, opened bank accounts in Mr. Wright’s name without his knowledge, caused Wright to purchase a truck for Tarray’s personal use, and secured rights to Wright’s house and truck. She began to leave Mr. Wright at home and neglect her duties, causing Wright to be hospitalized on three occasions. Wright testified that he was “between a rock and a hard place” because he needed help in performing daily activities.
The Tarray court found two instances that involved deceptive conduct. First, Tarray opened several unauthorized bank accounts using the victim’s name. Second, Tarray was paid her salary without tax withholdings. Wright intended to deduct taxes and Tarray informed him that she would make the withholdings and deductions, but she never did so. The court says that there was also possible deception when Tarray opened various unauthorized accounts and named herself as the authorized credit card holder, allowing her to make cash withdrawals.
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