ATHENS, Ala. (WAFF) - Thursday, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced Limestone County Judge Douglas Patterson is charged with stealing from an incapacitated elderly man.
Marshall alleges Patterson stole “$47,800 for his own personal use.”
The press release from Marshall’s office states “Patterson became [the man’s] conservator in March 2010. [The man], who is now deceased, was an incapacitated senior living in a Limestone County nursing home for military veterans. At the time Patterson became his conservator, his account had over $43,000. By December 2016, the account had less than $200..."
A conservator is a county-appointed attorney who is responsible for protecting the financial interests of an incapacitated individual.
State registered guardian (someone who cares for an incapacitated person’s well being) Chanda Crutcher said the fact that an arrest was made in this case “means the standard is working.”
She said the allegations surrounding Patterson are the exception, not the rule.
However, Crutcher said making sure peoples’ money goes where they want it is about planning early.
“You need to put people in place, that can see after your affairs if you become incapacitated,” she said.
She said having loved ones check after your wishes doesn’t hurt either.
“When it comes to aging getting into the affairs of others and understanding what those needs are and how they’re being met just serves everyone well,” she said.
Madison County’s conservator, Doug Martinson, said if loved ones are concerned concerned about potential abuse of finances, they should go to the courthouse.
Conservators are required to submit reports every year, and are monitored by the probate office.
“Make sure everything has been properly spent. That the cable bill has is for the ward, that the cutting of the grass or the utilities is for that individual,” he said.
The attorney general says Limestone County judicial officials and employees were "invaluable" in securing a grand jury indictment.
Limestone County conservators are required to be bonded, meaning the estate of the alleged victim will likely get back the misused money if Patterson is found guilty.