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Young Woman Accused of Stealing More Than $53,000 from Elderly Mesa Man

Santa Barbara police say the 21-year-old suspect served as the victim's caregiver

Santa Barbara police arrested a young woman Tuesday on suspicion of stealing more than $53,000 from an elderly Mesa man who hired her as his caregiver.

Sarah Helen Benson
Sarah Helen Benson

Sarah Helen Benson, 21, was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail on charges of felony embezzlement, forgery and financial elder abuse by a caregiver, according to police Sgt. Riley Harwood.

Benson had been caring for the 71-year-old man, who suffers from ataxia, a condition that renders sufferers unable to coordinate their muscle movements, but police said he is of sound mind.

The man and another caregiver who worked for Benson’s company, Sarah Benson In Home Care, reported the missing money on Feb. 3 to a Montecito Bank & Trust employee, who reported it to Santa Barbara police Detective John Ingram.

Harwood said the victim notified the bank employee of six unauthorized ATM transactions and four unauthorized checks written by Benson amounting to a loss of $7,971.63.

The bank employee also reported the incident to Santa Barbara County Adult Protective Services, and on Feb. 9, Ingram and Judy Sotelo of APS contacted the victim at his home.

Because of his condition, the man needed the help of caregiver for tasks such as writing checks. He told police that Benson had worked with him as a caregiver for a few years and earned his trust.

According to bank statements obtained by police, the victim suffered a total loss of $53,121.63 from October 2010 to January 2012 in the form of unauthorized ATM transaction and forged checks.

Benson’s bail was set at $50,000.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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