2011-04-07 / Front Page

Local Couple Arrested For Family Theft

Carnells charged with stealing $228,000
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Craig Carnell Craig Carnell Two Warfordsburg residents were arrested by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office last week after a lengthy investigation revealed they stole around a quarter-million dollars from elderly and disabled family members.

Forty-eightyear old William “Craig” Carnell and Melissa “Missi” Carnell, 50, of 5809 Pleasant Grove Road were arraigned on March 29 before Magisterial District Judge Wendy Mellott on felony theft charges. Specifically, Craig faces two counts of theft by unlawful taking and one count of criminal conspiracy to commit theft by unlawful taking. Missi is charged with two counts of theft by unlawful taking and one count each of criminal conspiracy to commit theft and theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received.

Appearing voluntarily last Tuesday with defense attorney Casey Shore, the Carnells opted to waive their right to a preliminary hearing and will next appear in the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas for mandatory arraignment. They currently remain free on their own recognizance.

Missi Carnell Missi Carnell The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office was alerted to possible criminal activity by Fulton County District Attorney Travis Kendall. Family members and representatives of the Area Agency on Aging expressed their suspicions to the district attorney that as caregivers the Carnells were “misappropriating” financial resources belonging to Craig’s mother, Margaret “Peggy” Carnell, and brother John Carnell.

The alleged thefts occurred between late 2005 through early 2008. The Carnells became powers of attorney for the two immediate family members in 2006.

Peggy Carnell suffered a stroke in January 2008 and was unable to oversee her finances, the affidavit of probable cause states. John Carnell is deaf, speech impaired and requires the use of a wheelchair as he suffers from cerebral palsy and is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

At the time of the thefts, John resided with his mother at the Carnell homestead. Using money belonging to their elderly mother, two acres located adjacent to family property were allegedly purchased by Craig and Missi with Peggy’s money. A double wide mobile home was also bought and placed on the two acres, where Peggy and her disabled son would temporarily reside until the trailer was repossessed and sold due to nonpayment, charging documents maintain. Special agent R. Kirby Conrad with the Bureau of Criminal Investigations further stipulated in the affidavit, “ ... By January 2008 Peggy was left with virtually no assets in banks, a $120,000 mortgage on a home that she no longer occupied and more than $43,000 in credit card debt.

In speaking with family members, friends, local bank tellers and Area Agency on Aging (AAA) representatives, agent Conrad learned Peggy and her husband, William, were financially stable, did not use or possess credit cards and only purchased an item if they had cash on hand. Even after her husband’s passing, Peggy and John should have had sufficient money to live out the remainder of their days, stated the special agent.

An analysis completed on Peggy’s bank accounts as well as bank accounts belonging to Missi and Craig’s bank revealed that Peggy appeared to be going through her available funds at an alarming rate, while her caregivers’ accounts went from a negative ending balance to figures over $100,000.

“In total, Missi and Craig withdrew $167,572.06 out of their checking account in 2006 while having less than $40,000 of income from Craig’s construction job and his work’s compensation payment,” said the affidavit.

In addition, a certified fraud examiner with the attorney general’s office “found evidence that Missi and Craig misappropriated approximately $228,000 of Peggy and John’s funds for the period December 27, 2005, through January 2008. The $228,000 was comprised of $110,000 in proceeds from a mortgage; $19,952 in Social Security (SSI) disability checks made out to John; $14,940.95 from the proceeds of a redeemed CD owned by Peggy; approximately $55,000 in credit card charges; and $28,456.48 withdrawn from Peggy’s savings account.”

Peggy and John now reside in West Virginia with Peggy’s granddaughter, Tonya, who is the courtappointed guardian for Peggy and power of attorney for John. The AAA is the court- appointed guardian for the Peggy Carnell Estate.

According to the affidavit, the granddaughter told the attorney general’s office that when Peggy and John arrived at her home they were in “poor physical condition, and their toenails were growing down over their toes ... John was overweight, had high blood pressure and had urine irritations on him because he used to have to urinate in a trash can.”

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