Do Churches Rip Off Aging Parents Too?

&l;p&g;We may think of those who steal from vulnerable aging loved ones as murky figures on the internet or ruthless adult children taking advantage of a parent with dementia. All that is true. But what you might not consider is that your aging parent could be victimized by someone the parent totally trusts outside the family: the church.

According to the Securities &a;amp; Exchange Commission and a federal indictment, the pastor of one of the largest Protestant churches in the country, along with his crooked broker sidekick,&a;nbsp; defrauded his own congregants. Together, this scheming pair sold $3.4 million worth of worthless bonds to his trusting church goers, the&a;nbsp;SEC&a;nbsp;&l;a href=&q;https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-51&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;alleged in a civil&a;nbsp;complaint last week&l;/a&g;.&a;nbsp;&a;nbsp;Separately, a federal grand jury &l;a href=&q;https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdla/pr/federal-grand-jury-indicts-shreveport-financial-planner-houston-pastor-defrauding&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;returned a 13 count indictment against the pair&l;/a&g;. You may wonder why people who attended services there would want to buy bonds, falsely represented as being worth millions of dollars from their pastor. The accused, Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor at Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, was looked up to, trusted. They followed him and believed in him.&a;nbsp;But as the SEC tells it, he cooked up a scheme with a broker-dealer who&a;nbsp;had already been barred from the business and an equally dishonest lawyer to get the money from his unsuspecting flock. (In an Easter Sunday service sermon, &l;a href=&q;http://www.khou.com/article/news/i-am-not-guilty-kirbyjon-caldwell-addresses-allegations-during-easter-sunday-service/285-534063117&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;Caldwell denied the charges.&l;/a&g;)

&l;img class=&q;size-medium wp-image-7821&q; src=&q;http://blogs-images.forbes.com/carolynrosenblatt/files/2018/04/a-church-270×300.jpg?width=960&q; alt=&q;&q; data-height=&q;300&q; data-width=&q;270&q;&g; A church

If this were the first time we had ever encountered a church allegedly ripping off an elder, that would be one thing. But this isn&a;rsquo;t the only case. At &l;a href=&q;http://www.agingparents.com&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;AgingParents.com&l;/a&g;, we see a lot of strange things, including fraud by a trusted religious organization. In that case, an alarmed daughter came to us, worried about her 90-year-old mother. The mom had been an active contributor to their church all her life. The mom made modest donations, totaling about $1,000 a year. Suddenly, during the &a;ldquo;building fund&a;rdquo; time, her contributions rose to almost $100,000 in a year. She had limited means, enough to support her but not to wildly donate to anyone. It was clear that the mom had dementia and that she would soon need full-time help. She wandered off, got lost and the church had a record of having to get her off the street and take her home more than once.

We intervened and invited the church to a meeting to mediate the issue of asking this impaired elder for money when they knew she was a confused and vulnerable person. They declined, but the donation requests came to a screeching halt. The daughter was advised to take control over her mother&a;rsquo;s finances, as the appointed agent to do so. It is certainly unusual for a church to take advantage of its own, yet it happened at one of the largest congregations. What is happening across the country in the smaller, less conspicuous places, we wonder?

&l;strong&g;The Takeaways:&l;/strong&g;

1. Cognitive decline can come on very slowly and invisibly at first. &l;strong&g;A 90-year-old is at high risk for dementia just because of age alone&l;/strong&g;. Watch your aging loved ones for significant short-term memory loss and confusion. These aren&a;rsquo;t normal.

2.&a;nbsp; Adult children need to monitor their loved ones&a;rsquo; finances. &l;strong&g;Get online access if you possibly can and pay attention on a very regular basis&l;/strong&g; &l;strong&g;to where your aging parent&a;rsquo;s money is going&l;/strong&g;. Beware of unusual withdrawals.

3.&a;nbsp; Don&a;rsquo;t trust any church or charity just because it is supposed to be doing right. &l;strong&g;There can be predatory people hiding behind the guise of faith yet behaving as criminals do&l;/strong&g;. Your aging parents may be fooled by them and put their own financial safety at risk.&l;/p&g;