Puyallup woman pleads guilty to stealing $82,000 from relative with dementia

TACOMA -- A 37-year-old Puyallup woman on Tuesday pleaded guilty to eight counts of theft from a vulnerable adult.

According to the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office, Jessica Sellers stole more than $82,000 from her husband's elderly grandfather who suffers from dementia.

“Our Elder Abuse Unit continues to successfully advocate for vulnerable adults,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “People should know there are heavy penalties for exploiting elders and we vigorously prosecute these cases whenever and wherever they happen in Pierce County.”

Sellers volunteered to take power of attorney back in 2006 and the victim was moved to assisted living in 2012, they said.

Prosecutors said Sellers claimed the money in the victim's account was down because it fluctuated with the stock market. She also told family members that the victim's home was sold for $350,000 when it actually sold for $400,000.

At the time, Sellers was unemployed and her husband was on L&I because of an injury. According to the prosecutor's office:

"Soon after the proceeds from the real estate sale were deposited in to Penz’s account, Sellers and her husband appear to have increased their spending according to family members. They purchased a new 2013 Honda Civic for $26,203.03 using a check from Penz’s account. Other expenditures included a collector car, puppies, guns, a gun safe, furniture, vacations, snowboard equipment and private lessons, a large fish tank, and home improvements. There were also two large checks written from Penz’s account to Sellers.

A letter from Sellers’ attorney claimed that Sellers and her husband asked Penz for a loan in the amount of $85,548.73. No loan documents or any specific information identifying the date or terms of the supposed loan were provided.

Dr. Indra Finch, a licensed and clinical forensic psychologist, reviewed the case (including Mr. Penz’ medical records) prior to charges being filed and reached the opinion that Mr. Penz displayed clear impairments in his functional capacities and it is more likely than not that his cognitive ability to make financial decisions was impaired by his dementia during the relevant timeframe."

Sellers is scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 2.