Court-Appointed Pennsylvania Guardian and Virginia Co-conspirators Indicted for Stealing Over $1 million From Elderly Wards
PHILADELPHIA (STL.News) Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Gloria Byars, 60, of Aldan, PA; Carlton Rembert, 66, of Hampton, VA; and Alesha Mitchell, 40, of Suffolk, VA, were all indicted for their roles in scheme to defraud elderly, incapacitated people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. All three defendants were charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of bank fraud. Additionally, Rembert and Byars were charged with five counts of wire fraud, and Byars faces an additional charge of money laundering.
The Indictment alleges that between 2012 and 2018, Byars stole from dozens of incapacitated wards while serving as their court-appointed guardian. Prior to operating her own guardianship company, Byars was an office manager for a different company that was appointed to care for wards in Pennsylvania. As office manager and then as guardian herself through her own firm, Byars had unfettered access to wards’ property including bank accounts, pensions, real estate, annuities, and other assets.
Byars allegedly stole money from the wards’ bank accounts by writing unauthorized checks to companies she controlled, or to shell companies controlled by Rembert and Mitchell. The Indictment further alleges that Rembert and Mitchell assisted Byars in the theft by opening bank accounts in the names of shell companies purporting to be medical billing companies and depositing the stolen checks they received from Byars into those accounts. After the stolen checks cleared, Byars, Rembert, and Mitchell are alleged to have shared the fraud proceeds.
Byars is alleged to have also stolen gold Krugerrand coins, valuable gold coins first minted in South Africa in the 1960’s to introduce the country’s gold supply onto the world market, from one elderly victim’s safe deposit box. Byars is also alleged to have stolen $131,000 from the same ward’s bank account and over $756,000 from a retired federal employee’s Thrift Savings Plan.
Finally, according to court documents, Byars managed assets for an individual identified as C.G., whose heir asked for the assets’ return from Byers after C.G.’s death. But Byars had already stolen C.G.’s money. In an attempt to conceal her theft from C.G., Byars is alleged to have stolen $122,000 from yet another ward and used it to repay C.G.’s heir.
Mitchell was arrested in Virginia yesterday, has been released on bail pending trial, and will appear in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Friday, July 2. Byars was previously arrested in both Philadelphia and Delaware County for theft from her wards. Byars and Rembert are scheduled to appear for the federal charges in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Tuesday, July 6.
“As a court-appointed fiduciary, Byars had a moral and legal obligation to act in her clients’ best interest,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “Instead, she and her co-conspirators allegedly used her position to help themselves to the very property they should have been protecting – no better than wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
“Elder fraud cases are probably the most heartbreaking of the financial violations we work,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Here we have someone entrusted to oversee their incapacitated wards’ affairs, allegedly siphoning off money and property for herself and her co-conspirators. Anyone who targets vulnerable older folks for their assets has neither a conscience nor a moral compass. The FBI is committed to holding such crooks accountable, on behalf of those they’ve so cruelly victimized.”
If convicted, the defendants face the following maximum possible sentences. For each count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud, the maximum sentence is 30 years’ imprisonment and a $1,000,000 fine. For each count of wire fraud, the maximum sentence is 20 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine and for money laundering the maximum sentence is 20 years’ imprisonment and a $500,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Delaware County District Attorney’s Office, Criminal Investigation Division, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tiwana Wright.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.