A worker at a Casper nursing home stole thousands of dollars from a 100-year-old resident with dementia, police allege in an affidavit released Thursday.
Investigators found financial records suggesting Malgorzata Burns, 34, used the man’s bank account to write herself checks and make credit card payments. The alleged crimes occurred while the man was living at Shepherd of the Valley Healthcare Center, where Burns worked as a certified nursing assistant.
Prosecutors charged Burns with abusing a vulnerable adult, obtaining goods by false pretenses and four counts of forgery. If convicted, she would face a maximum of 60 years in prison.
She made her initial appearance Thursday afternoon in Natrona County Circuit Court, where a judge set her bond at $5,000.
Prosecutor John Miner said Burns, who was born in Poland and is applying for American citizenship, might represent a flight risk.
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Burns' attorney Tom Smith said his client has known about the case for some time, but didn’t attempt to flee. She also gave up her nursing assistant certificate, he said.
Smith declined to comment on the case when approached by a reporter after the court hearing.
Police began investigating Burns in June after a woman at a nonprofit guardianship group noticed suspicious charges on the man’s bank records. She discovered charges to Bresnan Communications, a cable and Internet provider, even though the man had no need to pay for such services while living at the nursing home.
The woman also found payments to credit cards that didn’t belong to the man. The accounts belonged to Burns, the affidavit states.
A detective later found $7,200 in checks from the man’s bank account written to Burns. Police also learned of roughly $4,500 in allegedly fraudulent credit card payments.
The investigator spoke with the man’s physician, who said the victim had dementia and was unable to take care of himself. The doctor didn’t believe the man would give anyone permission to use his bank account.
Authorities attempted to interview Burns on Wednesday. She declined to speak with them and asked for an attorney, police said. She did submit a handwriting sample.
Burns no longer works at Shepherd of the Valley, facility administrator Jill Hult said in an email statement. Hult said she was not able to discuss any other details of Burns’ employment.
Burns worked at Shepherd of the Valley from Dec. 2009 until June, when she resigned, according to a Wyoming State Board of Nursing document that recommends her nursing assistant certificate be suspended. She was already on administrative leave at the time of her resignation.
Shepherd of the Valley fully cooperated during the police investigation, Hult said in the email.
“At all times our care center does whatever we can to ensure our residents are safe and well cared for,” she said.
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