Holly Hill, FL – A year-long joint investigation between the Holly Hill Police Department and the Florida Department of Children & Families ends in the arrests of two people for stealing over $250,000 from an elderly woman with dementia.
89-year-old Frances B. Graves and 38-year-old Sarah L. Sheldon were booked into Volusia County Jail today (March 14th) on various charges, including exploitation of an elderly person/disabled adult.
Graves – who will turn 90 next month – and Sheldon – who used to live near Graves’ Holly Hill home – worked together to take that money from various accounts belonging to an 89-year-old woman whom Graves told HHPD was a lifelong friend, according to the arrest report.
HHPD detectives were called in by DCF in February 2018 after two investigators because suspicious over the victim missing a doctor’s appointment and went to investigate her home on Cordova Avenue in Holly Hill.
When they showed up to her home, Sheldon – who claimed she was paid by Graves to live at the home and be the victim’s daily caregiver – told DCF she’d get the victim ready for the doctor’s appointment but then went back inside and wouldn’t open the door for some time despite repeated knocks at the front door, per the report.
Once she did answer, Sheldon claimed that she was ordered to not answer the door but denied neglecting the victim in any way.
Soon after that, the victim was transferred to a retirement home by DCF and a protection order was filed barring Graves and Sheldon from seeing the victim in that home.
After issuing various subpoenas, HHPD discovered at the end of March 2018 that $253,218.52 had been removed from three of the victim’s bank accounts, nearly wiping them out.
Detectives became more suspicious when a friend of the victim’s told them about a conversation she had with Graves where Graves told her that she thought she was going to jail. That friend also told HHPD that Graves had been trying to access the victim’s financial assets for a “long time”, per the report.
When questioned in April 2018, Graves claimed she was paying the victim’s bills as well as for Sheldon to stay at the home. Graves also stated that she had power of attorney over the victim and but could not provide any documentation to prove it, according to HHPD.
During the interview, Graves admitted to transferring the money from those accounts into her checking account and commented that DCF was “the Gestapo” and “mean” when she asked HHPD who had filed the complaint against her, according to the report.
Graves also acknowledged that Sheldon had a “bad reputation” but she kept her as the victim’s caregiver because Sheldon had been doing a good job taking care of the victim and it was hard to find someone to do that kind of job.
According to VCJ records, Sheldon has been booked 20 times there since April 2001 on a variety of charges, including marijuana possession, petit theft, issuing a worthless check, battery causing bodily harm, petit theft from a merchant and dealing in stolen property.
When she was questioned by HHPD the day after Graves’ interview, Sheldon admitted to using the victim’s credit card a few times and writing out some checks for the victim, forging her name in the process.
More HHPD subpoenas uncovered that Sheldon spent nearly $1,500 from one of the victim’s credit cards just before DCF came to the home in February 2018, per the report.
Sheldon also told detectives that she thought Graves moved money out of the accounts so that DCF wouldn’t be able to access the money and that she was paid around $2,000 monthly by Graves to be the victim’s daily caregiver.
Graves is held on $500,000 bond on charges of exploitation of an elderly person/disabled adult and theft from a person 65 years of age or older and disabled.
Sheldon is held on $270,000 bond on charges of exploitation of an elderly person/disabled adult, fraudulent use of a credit card and writing bad checks.
It’s not clear yet when both will make their first court appearances.