This month a Douglas County jury convicted Candi Phipps, 36, of Denver, of theft of more than $500 from an at-risk adult and of caretaker neglect. The main Class 3 felony carries a suggested sentencing range of four to 12 years in the Department of Corrections when Phipps is sentenced March 27.
Unfortunately, such cases are not unusual: Unethical caregivers taking advantage of elderly or disabled clients and patients are why Colorado recently enacted a mandatory reporting law for abuse, neglect, and exploitation of at-risk persons who are at risk due to their age, physical disability, or intellectual or developmental disability.
But in this case, the jury didn’t get to hear from the frail 68-year-old victim because she died before the case went to trial. But because of exemplary work from detectives, court-appointed officials, family members and investigators, justice was served.
“Criminals target the vulnerable among us, and elderly and disabled people are prime targets,” said District Attorney George H. Brauchler. “We target the criminals who prey upon the vulnerable. Our economic crimes unit worked with our elder abuse team and found a way to bring justice in this distressing and difficult case. Even the death of the victim could not prevent a jury from seeing the despicable and criminal conduct by Candi Phipps.”
The case began in 2013, when the victim hired Phipps through an agency to help with errands and chores. In January 2014 the victim fell and fractured her vertebrae. After surgery she needed extra medical attention. Phipps left the agency and continued to work as the victim’s caregiver, even as the victim was moved to a facility in Parker in September 2014.
The victim’s dependence on Phipps grew as Phipps’ gained her trust. Phipps demanded more money but failed to document any hours worked, services provided or produce receipts for items purchased.
The victim’s family became concerned and hired a medical case manager and made sure the victim’s sister had financial power of attorney.
The case manager reported her concerns to the Parker Police Department, which began investigating and working with Adult Protection Services on behalf of the victim.
The case was difficult, because Phipps arranged for the victim to make her financial and medical power of attorney. The victim cut off communications with family members. All the while, Phipps was withdrawing thousands of dollars from the victim’s accounts with no documentation – more than $33,000 from September to December 2014.
Ultimately, enough evidence was gathered, and in December 2014 the court appointed a guardian and two special conservators for the victim, who by that time had been moved back to Arapahoe County by Phipps, where the victim’s home had been made into a construction zone by an unlicensed handyman.
The court-appointed team investigated the victim’s financial affairs and took actions to protect her assets. They found she was being exploited by caregiver Phipps.
Phipps was charged in January of 2016.
The victim died in August of 2016.
The jury came back with a guilty verdict Jan. 13, 2017.