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Caretaker Steals From Aging Mother

The daughter and caretaker of an elderly woman in Lewistown stole more than $700,000 from her mother, forcing her to sell her home and move into assisted living, was sentenced June 7 to more than four years in prison.

Roxanna Rae Lewis-Stella, 60, of Billings, pleaded guilty in January to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to the Montana U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said every case involving elder fraud and abuse is “repulsive,” but is “particularly odious when it is done by a family member.”

“It shocks the conscience that after a lifetime of love from her mother, Lewis-Stella, when her vulnerable mom needed her most, stole so much of her money that her mom had to sell her home to move into an assisted living facility,” Laslovich said.

While serving as her mother’s primary caretaker, Lewis- Stella forged about 70 checks, impersonated her mom on the phone with banks and intercepted mailed bank statements before her mother could see them. Her mother was almost entirely dependent on Lewis- Stella for care, which the government said made her an even more vulnerable victim due to her old age.

She also stole and pawned a 100-ounce silver bar from her mother, used her father’s credit cards after his death to accumulate $14,000 in charges for her personal expenses and stole and forged a $12,505 life insurance check written to her husband’s son, according to court documents.

The government said Lewis- Stella spent the stolen money on clothes, travel, entertainment, restaurants, online shopping, cosmetic procedures and tattoos.

Her mother had to sell her home and move into an assisted living facility after realizing the money was gone.

“The defendant, motivated only by her greed, positioned herself to access her family’s funds and then exploited the trust placed in her,” the government said.

This wasn’t the first time Lewis-Stella had committed fraud, with court documents detailing how in 1994 she took out credit cards in the name of friends she had a falling out with, charging more than $6,400. A few years later she foraged a check for $7,500 from a friend’s bank account, and wrote “worthless” checks for nearly $9,000.

The government said a significant sentence in this case would deter Lewis-Stella from committing similar crimes in the future and deter others who may also be inclined to commit similar crimes.

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