JUPITER, Fla. - Authorities say a local incident should serve as a wake-up call to protect Florida's most vulnerable of loved ones from being ripped off. Investigators say a 91-year old Jupiter woman had thousands of dollars stolen by the very person hired to care for her. That 21-year old caregiver has been fired and the victim refunded.
Quintavia Santos, 21, was entrusted to care for a 91-year old woman - who suffers from dementia. Jupiter police say Santos used the debit card of victim, Margaret McIntyre, to steal more than $5,000.
"You know the old saying - 'trust by verify'," said Dennis Miles, a regional manager with Florida's Department of Children and Families. Miles works to prevent crimes against aging Floridians, such as McIntyre.
"You need to look very closely, watch very closely at what is happening with their loved ones," he said.
McIntyre's step-daughter said the victim found the ad for BrightStar Care of Jupiter in her church bulletin and that agency came highly recommended.
Julianne Kennedy, a spokesperson for BrightStar, released a statement about Santos' arrest. "Before we hire any caregiver, we conduct thorough criminal background checks and this particular caregiver cleared these checks," the statement read.
Santos is accused of taking McIntyre's debit card and making purchases at Ross, TJ Maxx, Citgo gas station and Tire Kingdom. Authorities said Santos also hit up ATMs, withdrawing more than $4,000.
DCF says there can be warning signs such as an unusual transfer of assets or if a loved one is unable to pay bills. Family members should also be on the look out for forged signatures or unusual credit or debit card usage.
"Anything that seems to be out of the ordinary; it just doesn't seem right, probably warrants a closer look," said Miles.
In this case, it was one of Santos' co-workers that took that closer look, spotting all those withdrawals on the victim's bank statement and going to police. Santos has been charged with fraud and theft.
The victim's family has opted to keep this woman in the same agency's care; confident that this incident was isolated.
The full written statement from BrightStar Care is below:
"We were truly shocked and saddened to hear that one of our former caregivers was arrested in connection with theft charges. To protect our clients, When we were first informed of the incident earlier this year and the initial investigation began, we removed the caregiver from all cases and once it was confirmed that she was a suspect, we immediately terminated the caregiver. We have cooperated fully with authorities in their investigation of this case and will continue to do so as needed. Meanwhile, we have been entrusted to continue to provide care to this client to this day. In addition, the bank has refunded the money in its entirety to the client and we are happy that this issue was identified and reported immediately by another one of our caregivers."