Husband, Wife Plead In Family Theft
After having been granted several continuances to find counsel and failing to appear in court recently for call of the criminal trial list, a husband and wife from the Warfordsburg area stood before the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas last week for entry of a plea.
Forty-eight-year-old William “Craig” Carnell, 49, and 51-yearold Melissa “Missi” Carnell, of 5809 Pleasant Grove Road, appeared before Judge Richard J. Walsh on October 18 to address charges filed earlier this year in the alleged theft of $250,000 from two family members under their care.
The thefts, reports indicate, occurred between late 2005 and early 2008. Coincidentally, the Carnells became powers of attorney for the two immediate family members in 2006. Victims in the case included Craig’s mother, Margaret “Peggy” Carnell, and brother John Carnell.
Peggy Carnell suffered a stroke in January 2008 and became even more removed from overseeing her finances, said an affidavit of probable cause filed in the casey by Special Agent R. Kirby Conrad of the state attorney general’s office. 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 disease.
Appearing again without the services of a defense attorney, Craig Carnell entered a plea of “nolo contendre” or no contest to two counts of theft by unlawful taking and one count of criminal conspiracy to commit theft by unlawful taking. Meanwhile, Missi entered a no-contest plea to 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.
According to reports, agent Conrad’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 reportedly expressed their suspicions to the district attorney that as caregivers Craig and Missi were “misappropriating” financial resources belonging to Peggy and John.
At the time of the thefts, John resided with his mother at what was referred to as the Carnell homestead. Using money belonging to their elderly mother, two acres located adjacent to family property were allegedly pur- Craig and Missi using 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. Agent Conrad 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, 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 suffi- cient 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 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 workman’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.”
At the time of the Carnells’ arrest in late March 2011, Peggy and John were residing in West Virginia with Peggy’s granddaughter, who eventually became court-appointed guardian for Peggy and power of attorney for John. The AAA was serving as 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.”
A handicapped accessible bathroom with a special-order shower/tub was to be constructed for John in the double wide trailer he previously shared with his mother. The construction was to be covered by funding through the United Cerebral Palsy Association of the Southern Alleghenies region, the granddaughter reported. The bathroom was never completed after the shower / tub company was unable to make payment arrangements with Missi, the granddaughter concluded.
Sentencing in the case has been set for November 29.