By Tamas Mondovics
The news of a pair of healthcare workers arrested over the summer for robbing the patients they were caring for stirred the hearts of residents, while raising awareness of the need to be ever more vigilant.
According to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office detectives, the first of the two healthcare workers to be arrested for stealing jewelry from their patients was Kathy Elliot, 66, of Ruskin, who worked for Hanson Services and was an in-home health care companion for the two victims age 67 and 98 years old.
Elliot was charged with two counts of exploitation of an elderly person, two counts of grand theft, two counts of dealing in stolen property and two counts of false information on a pawnbroker form.
Sadly, during the investigation, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office also discovered another case of elderly exploitation involving the stealing of large amounts of cash.
Anita Louise Puskas of Riverview, also an in-home health care companion with the same company, Hanson Services, was arrested and charged with exploitation of an elderly person, grand theft, and 12 counts of fraudulent use of a credit card.
Detectives said that Puskas, 42, withdrew large amounts of money from the 87-year-old victim’s bank account.
According to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) the U.S. has no national reporting mechanism to track the financial exploitation of elders. However, one NIJ-funded study of 2,000 community-residing elderly individuals in Arizona and Florida found that 5.6 percent reported being victims of financial mistreatment.
The most common types of financial mistreatment were having someone steal or spend their money, sell or take their property, or forge their signature.
While the Sheriff’s Office is pleased to make both arrests, and the community can rest a little better, detectives are continuing the investigation and ask that any other victims contact the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office at 247-8200.