Christine Ann Cooper. Photo: Rocklin PD/News 10
California's elderly population is growing, and according to our state's Department of aging, this growth will be double that of any natural population increase. Along with a surge in the numbers of elderly citizens, however, comes a terrible phenomenon: elder abuse. This crime takes many forms, from neglect and physical abuse to isolation and psychological manipulation. One of its most consistent manifestations, though, is elder financial abuse. Elders are all too commonly exploited and defrauded by wrongdoers, with most cases going unreported.
Today, however, we can report a textbook instance of alleged elder financial abuse that was exposed, and right here in Sacramento. 62-year-old Christine Ann Cooper, an Elk Grove resident, was arrested in Rocklin on charges of embezzlement, elder abuse, and forgery. Police say Cooper was misappropriating funds from her 85-year-old mother's accounts, over which she is the trustee. For nine years, they state, Cooper wrote $129,000 in checks to herself from her mother's trust funds and forged bank statements in an attempt to cover her tracks. Now Cooper is in Placer County Jail.
Cooper's alleged embezzlement from her mother's funds drives home a key point in elder abuse cases - all too often the bad actors who exploit seniors are their very own relatives. It's an unfortunate but true fact that the most likely perpetrators of this crime are unscrupulous family members who abuse and manipulate parents, grandparents, or other elders for their own gain. How can we keep our elderly loved ones safe from harm?
To prevent elder financial abuse, it's important to talk over financial matters with your elderly loved one and discuss how you can help keep their funds safe, whether through joint accounts, power of attorney, trusteeship, or other options. In the case of Christine Ann Cooper's mother, Cooper was the trustee over her money and is suspected of acting in bad faith. Police aren't saying how Cooper was caught, but it's worth noting that bank employees play a critical role in spotting elder financial abuse, since they're often the first to detect irregularities in accounts or behavior that's out of the ordinary.
Spotting - and stopping - elder financial abuse is a community effort. We can protect our seniors by doing the right thing: speaking out to authorities when something is clearly wrong.