An East Palo Alto woman who was convicted of felony elder abuse and fraud for getting her 97-year-old aunt to sign over the deed of her home will spend seven years and four months in a state prison, a San Mateo County judge ruled on Friday.
Shirley Venoya Remmert, 71, lived with her aunt and provided care for her in the 97-year-old's home. Remmert had her aunt sign a quitclaim deed to the home in June 2015, which Remmert recorded with the county on January 2016, according to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. The aunt had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment in February 2015, just four months before she signed the quitclaim.
Remmert isolated her aunt from other family members, who notified the 97-year-old's bank that Remmert might be abusing her. The bank reported the concern to county Adult Protective Services. An investigation revealed that Remmert had withdrawn between $40,000 to $80,000 from the victim's bank account and had hidden the money in the home without the victim's knowledge or permission.
The victim did not know she had signed the quitclaim and believed she still owned the home. She thought the paperwork was to guarantee that the house and assets would be divided among family members when she dies, according to Wagstaffe.
The district attorney said on Friday that authorities were able to save the victim's home. Remmert will be ordered to pay restitution to her aunt for the missing money. She will have to work while in prison to pay the debt. When she is released from prison, whatever balance remains she will be forced to continue to pay back as a civil judgment. Such judgments are typically good for 10 years and can be renewed every 10 years until the restitution is satisfied, he said.
Judge Elizabeth Lee dismissed 10 motions Remmert had filed seeking to overturn the jury verdicts, continue the sentencing date, for release on bail or her own recognizance, due process claims, request to refer the case to a grand jury and a claim of prosecutorial misconduct. Remmert had represented herself in court with a standby private public defender.
A jury deliberated for less than two hours after a 12-day trial in May and convicted her on all charges: felony fiscal elder abuse by a caretaker, felony filing of a fraudulent document, and felony submitting a fraudulent claim. The jury also affirmed enhancements leading to a stiffer sentence: fraud amounting to more than $500,000 and theft of more than over $200,000.
Wagstaffe said the sentence she received was what prosecutors had sought.