A Polk County woman was arrested Friday after deputies say she stole more than $66k from an elderly woman.
On March 12, 2021, after a months-long investigation, Polk County Sheriff’s Office Fraud detectives arrested 40-year-old Laura Pollard Ramos of Winter Haven for:
· Grand theft of a person over 65 years of age (F2)
· Scheming to defraud over $50,000 (F1)
· Fraudulent use of a credit card (F3)
· Criminal use of personal ID (F3)
Ramos was made the power of attorney for the victim in 2013, due to the woman's declining health. At that time, the victim’s monthly bills averaged $550.00 (for lot rent, cable television, electric, water, and alarm). The victim did not have any credit cards, and spent between $200-$400 cash per month on incidentals/spending money. According to deputies, Ramos, as the power of attorney, wrote checks from the victim’s account and withdrew cash from the ATM for her as needed. There was a second signer on the account as well, who died in September 2018.
In October 2020, the victim received a PayPal credit card bill in the mail in her name that she didn’t know about, deputies said. She alerted other family members (without Ramos’ knowledge), who then discovered that the elderly victim’s bank account had been emptied, and had a negative balance.
The victim’s family reported the suspicious activity to PCSO, who began an in-depth investigation. Her concerned family members deposited their own money into her account to keep her from having to file for bankruptcy. The victim’s only income was Social Security, authorities say.
During the investigation, detectives learned that the 83-year-old victim sold her home in early 2018, resulting in $80,000 being deposited into her account. According to a financial review, detectives discovered the account had a second signer, a woman who died in September 2018.
Checks and withdrawals made prior to the second signer’s death were generally very consistent. There were occasional $200.00 cashed checks (the victim did not have any active credit or debit cards and she generally used cash), and monthly payments for the victim’s bills were consistent for about one year.
After the sale of her house, the woman maintained a balance of about $71,000.00, and she stayed within a couple of thousand dollars of this through October of 2018, the investigation showed.
In November of 2018, after the death of the second signer to the account, a series of payments to PayPal, restaurants, Epcot, stores, and many other locations were identified. Prior to this date, there were direct payments to 3-6 different services per month. In November, this increased to nearly 50 transactions per month.
Between November 2018 and November 2019, the victim’s account reduced from $66,836 to a negative balance of -$193.00.
The victim passed away in February 2021.
Detectives submitted subpoenas and gathered documentation of payments to the following entities:
· Bank of America
· PayPal credit
· Capital One credit
· Hot Topic
· Planet Fitness
· Publix ATM cash withdrawals
Over time, Ramos depleted the woman's bank account, and opened three different credit cards in her name, maxing all of them out. She withdrew over $18,000 cash from ATMs; paid credit card bills which she used at restaurants and bars; paid her car payments; made Amazon purchases; and paid for entertainment inside and outside Polk County, the investigation found.