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Howell Receives One Year For Defrauding Elderly

By Staff | Feb 18, 2009

A 68-year-old New Martinsville woman will spend one year in federal prison after admitting to defrauding an elderly couple out of thousands of dollars.

U.S. Judge Frederick Stamp sentenced Carolyn Howell Feb. 11 to one year in prison and three years of supervised release. She also was ordered to pay $51,329.75 in restitution.

The sentence came after Howell pleaded guilty Oct. 1 to one count of devising a scheme using wire communications to defraud an elderly couple to obtain money and property.

“As part of the scheme, Howell obtained access to an elderly couple’s home and personal information in the course of providing them in-home care services,” said U.S. Attorney Sharon Potter.

“Howell deposited convenience checks and balance transfers from the victims’ Discover credit card into her personal bank account. She also fraudulently applied for and obtained an American Express credit card using personal information from one of the victims and, then, transferred money from that card to the Discover card account.”

Potter said Howell also embezzled funds from the victim’s retirement and checking accounts and applied for, and obtained, a lumber company credit account using personal information from the victims and the mailing address of her mother.

“As a result of her scheme to defraud, Howell caused total losses of approximately $70,000 to the victims,” Potter said.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Cogar said Howell was a caregiver for the late Camilla and Lowell Haught of Proctor from June 2006 to May 2007, when she accessed their personal finances, applied for credit cards in their names, and cashed Lowell Haught’s pension checks.

Cogar also said Howell cashed federal income tax and West Virginia state income tax refunds.

Carol Zeppuhar, the victims’ daughter, asked Stamp to show no mercy in sentencing. She said her parents trusted Howell as their caretaker and Howell took advantage of that trust.

Defense Attorney Robert McCoid asked Stamp to consider probation or home confinement in lieu of jail time. He pointed to Howell’s record of no previous arrests.

“What she did was reprehensible,” McCoid said. “But she lives with it every day. She hears the whispers out in public, and the shame never goes away.”

Cogar told Stamp jail time should be included in the sentence to reflect the seriousness of the crime.

Stamp allowed Howell until March 11 to self-report to prison.