In a deal with prosecutors that allows her to avoid a lengthy prison term, a Santa Barbara woman pleaded guilty Friday to charges that she abused and stole as much as $700,000 from an 80-year-old city resident with dementia.
Rosemary Rebekah Baugh, 57, was arrested in November at her State Street home after an 11-month investigation on charges of grand theft, financial elder abuse and elder neglect.
The investigation began after relatives of the victim, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, came to Santa Barbara in December 2012 and found him "malnourished, filthy and living in squalor," according to police.
Baugh had known the victim for decades, and prosecutor Brian Cota estimated that Baugh stole $700,000 from the man, including $235,000 that she used to purchase a mobile home she is living in. Cota asked that the victim's name not be printed.
She also reportedly shopped heavily online, often making multiple purchases per day from QVC and the Home Shopping Network, and paid for online psychic services.
When the victim’s family discovered the situation and attempted to preserve the victim’s assets, Baugh took the man to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse on Jan. 3, 2013, and married him. She filed for divorce two-weeks later, seeking spousal support of $10,000 per month, police said..
Cota said $100,000 went to Baugh's daughter, adding that he's hoping that $325,000 can be recovered for the victim.
A perjury charge stemmed from Baugh stating that she and the man had lived as husband and wife for 32 years, Cota said.
"He did at one time care for her," Cota told reporters outside of court, adding that his wish was that she not be sentenced to prison time. "The family felt this was a good resolution."
Baugh will have to relinquish ownership of the mobile home, which would satisfy a portion of restitution owed, and will have 30 days to vacate the property.
She also must account for any gifts made to her relatives.
She was placed on three years of probation and must consent to an annulment of the marriage.
Cota said that if Baugh does not meet the terms of her probation, the court could sentence her to prison time with a maximum term of 11 years and eight months.
Baugh is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 31.