Five staff members of a Chicago independent and assisted living community collectively stole more than $600,000 from a resident with dementia, the Cook County acting public guardian claimed in a petition filed Thursday with the Cook County Circuit Court.
Police are investigating, and nobody has been charged. The public guardian, Charles Golbert, told the Chicago Sun-Times that a lawsuit could be filed to try to recover the funds.
Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park, where 97-year-old Grace Watanabe lived for eight years, said in a statement that it has retrained its employees on policies related to accepting gifts from residents. None of the employees allegedly involved in the incidents involving Watanabe’s funds work for the facility anymore, the operator said.
According to the legal document filed by Golbert, Bank of America alerted Illinois Adult Protective Services earlier this year when it noticed suspicious withdrawals from Watanabe’s account there. Watanabe’s account at JPMorgan Chase also reportedly was affected.
Bank records, according to the filing, showed that five employees cashed Watanabe’s checks or used her ATM card. Some of the checks allegedly had “Happy Birthday” or “gift” written on them. The petition names the business manager and her two daughters, the activities director, the assistant activities director, a receptionist and a hairdresser.
Watanabe no longer lives at the facility.
In a statement, Symphonies Residences of Lincoln Park said it was “shocked and saddened” when it learned several months ago “that a beloved, longtime resident was giving money to its employees, the receipt of which was a violation of company policy. An investigation was immediately commenced. We notified law enforcement and worked closely with the ombudsman, Healthcare and Family Services, the resident and the resident’s financial institution to gather all facts. … The dignity, safety and security of our residents is always our first priority.”