PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. --- A Pinellas County guardian is facing charges after being accused of stealing more than $500,000 from the man she was taking care of.
Investigators say Traci Hudson had a 92-year-old man sign a power of attorney agreement (POA) permitting her to manage all his affairs.
Officials say within 10 months, almost all of his money went from his bank account into hers. She used his money for her own personal expenses.
Hudson was booked at the Pinellas County Jail after her arrest on a felony count of exploitation of an elderly person.
Investigators say after the man's daughter died, Hudson had him sign a POA. She then proceeded to pay herself more than $541,000 from his bank account.
“She paid herself over $1,600 a day to be a POA. I don't know what she could have done to earn $1,600 a day. She managed in the space of 10 months to drain every dollar out of this man's estate,” said ABC legal analyst Jeff Swartz, who is a retired judge and law professor.
Investigators say her bank records show where she spent the money. She was buying tickets to Tampa Bay Bucs games, purchasing clothes and jewelry from department stores and closing on a new $593,000 square-foot home back in May.
Hudson is the president of the Pinellas County Guardianship Association, which is supposed to promote professionalism in the guardianship industry.
Earlier this year, we covered another guardianship case involving Hudson, whose last name was Samuel at the time.
“It's one of my responsibilities to make sure we're spending her money effectively and carefully,” said Samuel, when she testified in a hearing describing her responsibilities.
At the time, Judge Pam Campbell praised her.
“I know Ms. Samuel to be a good and professional guardian. She's on a number of cases I have,” Cambell said.
On Friday, that same judge ordered a hearing for next week to determine how to protect the 31 wards Hudson currently has in Pinellas County.
“I think this brings to light the corruption that can take place when elderly people are taken care of by people who are not their relatives. I think all of us are growing older and have to be concerned about what can happen to us,” Swartz said.
Hillsborough County courts are also reviewing Hudson's guardianship cases.
We reached out to Hudson's attorney for comment, but he did not respond by our deadline.
Dr. Sam Sugar of the Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardians organization issued the following statement regarding Hudson’s arrest:
Legitimate investigations continue to finally reveal the depth and breadth of the criminal activities performed in numerous parts of the state by professional guardians. What is clear is that the judges who enable these guardians have consistently failed to do their job of monitoring those very guardians. It is time for law-enforcement to intervene with meaningful and thorough investigations and indictments of the countless complaints submitted by victims of guardianship abuse over the years which have been Casually dismissed by the agencies tasked with protecting the public from exploitation.
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