The prosecutor-elect of Harrison County, Mo., pleaded guilty in Kansas City federal court Wednesday to stealing more than $540,000 from an elderly client.
Richard F. Turner, 39, admitted that he used the money to pay off his mortgage, cover living expenses, prop up a struggling clothing business and purchase a swimming pool.
U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson called Turner’s crime an “egregious case of elder abuse.”
“The abuser, Mr. Turner, was the elderly victim’s own attorney,” Dickinson said in a written statement. “When those in positions of responsibility and trust abuse the elderly, we will bring the full resources of federal and state law enforcement to bring them to justice.”
Turner is a lawyer in Bethany, Mo. He previously served as Harrison County prosecutor. Voters elected him again Nov. 4, but the felony conviction makes him ineligible to be serve.
The theft scheme began in early 2011 just after Turner received a foreclosure notice on his home. He soon filed for personal bankruptcy, but he also set up a trust for his client, for whom he previously held a durable power of attorney.
From 2011 through 2014, Turner stole $540,803, according to federal court records. He attempted to steal an additional $187,343 in 2014, but those transactions were halted, Turner admitted in his plea agreement.
His client, who was born in 1920, began living in a nursing home in 2010. Doctors declared her incapacitated in March 2011, just a week after Turner set up the trust, prosecutors noted.
Court records noted that the client’s late husband, a retired federal administrative law judge and World War II veteran, had inherited “a large amount of prime farm land in northwest Missouri.”
In addition to wire fraud for the embezzlement, Turner also pleaded guilty to making false statements on a tax return. Prosecutors said he did not pay the state for federal income taxes on money he stole from his client.