Two Vero Beach women, who are former certified nursing assistants, are in jail for stealing more than $500,000 from elderly people they cared for in Indian River Shores.
“Here locally, this is probably one of this biggest ones that we’ve seen. That’s a lot of money,” said Indian River Shores Police Officer Albert Iovino.
Chiquita McGee and Sophia Shephard (AKA Sophia Brown) were arrested Tuesday on charges for exploitation of the elderly, organized fraud and scheme to defraud a financial institution.
Indian River Shores police say the duo convinced two elderly patients to open credit cards under McGee and Shephard’s name, linked to the victims' accounts, with an unlimited credit line.
Police said the pair purchased personal items, such as cosmetic dental work, plastic surgery, cruises, expensive jewelry, clothing, an engine for one of their cars, exotic car rental (a Rolls-Royce Ghost for five days at $995.00 per day), hotels in various Florida cities, and they paid a fine out of St. Lucie County.
Police said the total amount for all fraud related to the case is at least $543,973. The pair also fraudulently obtained checks from the victims, police say.
The women were self-employed, and contracted by Indian River Home Care Plus, according to the home health care company’s owner, Margot Kornicks, RN.
Kornicks released the following statement to WPTV:
The charges against Chiquita McGee and Sophia Shepherd are incontestably serious, and elderly exploitation is both deplorable and intolerable. Indian River Home Care (agency) and Indian River Home Care Plus (nurse registry) stand behind this statement, and we will and always have vetted both our employees and our contractors to the upmost degree, according to Florida state statute.
The contract with McGee and Shepherd was terminated on Nov. 16, 2017, due to unprofessional behavior including using abusive language toward staff members and forging hours. At that time, we did not know about the fraud.
We learned of the fraudulent actions from the family at the end of November, and immediately reported the illegal activity to the authorities. Our commitment to our clients is steadfast, and we unwaveringly support our patients, their families and this community.
Lovino offered advice for anyone needing home health care for a loved one.
“You have to advocate for your loved ones. Follow up with these people. Find out as much as you can about the home health agency that’s providing the care. Spend the first three or four visits with the healthcare individual,” Lovino said.
He also said you can talk to your loved one about obtaining power of attorney to help track your loved ones expenses, and credit accounts.
McGee and Shepherd are being held in jail without bond and have a court appearance Wednesday.