The former business manager of a Morristown, NJ, assisted living community faces the potential of decades in prison and up to $1.5 million in fines if found guilty of charges related to the theft of approximately $237,000 from a resident.
Marcella Drakeford, 45, was arrested and charged with six counts of mail fraud on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced. Each count carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the approximate gross gain or loss caused by the alleged scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Drakeford is living in Florida now but is scheduled to be arraigned April 4 in New Jersey.
The indictment does not name the assisted living community at which she worked, but an online profile of Drakeford identifies the community as Spring Hills Morristown, and company representatives confirmed her former employment to McKnight’s Senior Living.
Drakeford was hired in March 2015 after a screening that included a state-required criminal background check, Spring Hills Senior Communities said. The affected resident moved into the community in January 2016, according to the company.
According to the indictment obtained by McKnight’s Senior Living, Drakeford was granted limited access to the resident’s checking account in December 2016 after she agreed to help with the resident’s financial affairs. Drakeford was authorized to use the account only to pay for the resident’s care and living expenses, the indictment said.
Unbeknownst to the resident or to the resident’s guardian — a family member, however, Drakeford already had fraudulently added her name as a signatory to the resident’s credit card account in October and had several credit cards tied to the account issued in her name, according to the indictment. Drakeford then allegedly used the credit cards to buy clothing, shoes, jewelry, trips and dental work and to pay rent, car and utility bills. The charges stem from Drakeford’s alleged payment of the credit card bills via mail with checks drawn on the resident’s checking account, all without permission, from January through April 2017.
Spring Hills said a family member of the resident informed the community that funds were missing from the resident’s account in April 2017.
“The community responded immediately by contacting Morristown Police and suspending Drakeford,” according to a statement provided to McKnight’s Senior Living. “The community cooperated fully with the postal inspector’s office and turned over all records requested. After an internal investigation, Drakeford was terminated.”
Spring Hills Senior Communities had not experienced a similar incident in the past, Unanda Bell, vice president of human resources and talent management for Spring Hills, told McKnight’s Senior Living.
“We are horrified and saddened by such a heinous act and do not tolerate behavior of this kind. We take the responsibility of protecting our residents seriously,” she said. “Unfortunately, a personal arrangement was made between Drakeford and the family to facilitate financial transactions on behalf of the resident, a practice the company does not condone.”
Spring Hills said it was notified of the charges against Drakeford on Wednesday. The indictment also calls for Drakeford to forfeit all property obtained through the alleged scheme, including $237,258.27, or the equivalent, if she is found guilty.
The resident continues to live at Spring Hills Morristown, according to the company.