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Husband and wife plead guilty after defrauding elderly woman out of her home

The following is a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office – District of Idaho
BOISE – James Dougherty, 43, of Boise, pleaded guilty to wire fraud involving a scheme to defraud an elderly victim of money and real property. His wife, Jessica Dougherty, 42, also of Boise, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit announced Friday.
According to court records, in early 2015, James Dougherty and his wife, Jessica Dougherty, moved into a building on the victim’s 46-acre ranch in Boise to ostensibly provide the victim with assistance with her ranch and horses in exchange for free rent. Prior to 2015, the victim, a retired elementary schoolteacher, lived independently on her ranch and enjoyed a comfortable retirement.
In late 2015, the victim’s health deteriorated. During that time, James Dougherty gained control of the victim’s finances, including being named as the victim’s power-of-attorney for finances. A trust was executed, ostensibly signed by the victim, naming James and Jessica Dougherty as primary beneficiaries of the victim’s estate, including the ranch, and naming James Dougherty as successor trustee.
Shortly thereafter, in December 2015, the victim’s ranch was transferred from the victim to the newly formed trust benefitting the Doughertys. In March 2016, the victim was then declared incapacitated by two doctors, and James Dougherty was appointed sole trustee of the trust.
In 2015 and 2016, James Dougherty began to access, use, and transfer funds from the victim’s banking and financial accounts for his own personal use, benefit, and ownership. In fact, James Dougherty used the victim’s funds without her knowledge or consent to pay his and Jessica Dougherty’s creditors to rehabilitate their credit and qualify for a mortgage to ultimately transfer the victim’s ranch into the Doughertys’ personal names.
In July 2017, James and Jessica Dougherty entered into an agreement to purchase the ranch from the trust, executed by James Dougherty, as trustee. The victim was not involved in the transactions. James Dougherty as trustee sold the ranch to himself and Jessica Dougherty, signed as both the “Buyer” and as the “Seller” on the purchase and sale agreement, for less than the market value.
James Dougherty did not place the ranch for sale on the public market and the purchase price he paid simply represented the amount to clear the existing debt on the ranch. According to the Ada County Assessor, however, the value of the ranch at the time was approximately twice the amount of the purchase price.
The sale of the ranch to James and Jessica Dougherty was a breach of fiduciary duty under the trust and James Dougherty admitted he acted with the intent to defraud.
After James and Jessica were arrested in August 2022, and while in pretrial custody, Jessica Dougherty made a call from the Ada County jail and requested that an individual “flash” or “reset” a Dell laptop computer located at the ranch. Within hours, an individual followed Jessica Dougherty’s request and records relevant to the investigation involving the victim were permanently destroyed from the Dell laptop computer.
Jessica Dougherty admitted to knowingly causing the destruction of the records with the intent to obstruct the Department of Justice’s investigation.
James and Jessica Dougherty are scheduled to be sentenced on April 2, 2024, and they both face a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
“Defrauding an elderly victim out of her home is a reprehensible crime,” said U.S. Attorney Hurwit. “We must treat elders with the decency and respect that they deserve, and our Office will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute those who defraud elderly victims.”
“As a community, it is our responsibility to care for our elders. As a law enforcement community, it is our duty to hold individuals accountable who abuse their position of trust and steal from the elderly,” said IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) Special Agent in Charge, Todd Martin.
U.S. Attorney Hurwit commended the work of the Ada County Sherriff’s Office, the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations Division, and the Office of Inspector General of Health and Human Services, which led to the charges. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean Mazorol and Brittney Campbell are prosecuting the case.
Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the Department of Justice. The mission of the Department’s Elder Justice Initiative is to support and coordinate the Department’s enforcement and programmatic efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud and scams that target our nation’s seniors. To learn more visit https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice.
The post Husband and wife plead guilty after defrauding elderly woman out of her home appeared first on East Idaho News.
Source: eastidahonews.com

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