Austin pastor pleads not guilty to swindling elderly dependent

Published 9:32 am Friday, July 26, 2013

AUSTIN — An Austin pastor accused of swindling more than $40,000 from an 82-year-old woman with dementia pleaded not guilty to all related charges in Mower County court Thursday.

The Rev. David DeFor, 69, faces four felony counts of financially exploiting a vulnerable adult.

According to court records, DeFor, 69, and his wife allegedly received about $11,000 from the victim since DeFor became the victim’s power of attorney in July 2010, while Austin Church of Christ (Christian), where DeFor is a pastor, received about $15,000 during that time.

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Authorities say the victim had also withdrawn more than $21,000 from her account for other expenses related to DeFor.

The victim also rewrote her will in 2011 to leave 25 percent of her estate to the DeFors and another 15 percent to the Church of Christ (Christian). The DeFors would also receive the victim’s personal effects, including a 2002 Buick LeSabre and three bags of the victim’s jewelry that DeFor kept at his home.

That will was revoked by Mower County District Judge Fred Wellman at a July 17 civil court hearing, where he also granted Hope Guardianship Services permanent guardianship over the victim. DeFor was removed as the victim’s power of attorney over finances in May.

Mower County Human Services alerted the Austin Police Department in April after one of the victim’s friends grew concerned. DeFor told police he befriended the woman several years ago while both were on the Salvation Army Board of Directors and after realizing she had no family in the area. According to DeFor, the victim told him in 2008 that no one was helping with her finances, though she had been diagnosed with dementia the year before. DeFor helped pay the victim’s bills, gave her rides to Church of Christ and took her to hospital appointments.

“I don’t have anything to hide,” DeFor said last month. “I haven’t done anything wrong.”

According to court documents, DeFor told police he occasionally withdrew $300 to $500 from the victim’s account and set it aside for her use, as she liked to have $20 to $25 in cash for expenses, or to buy something nice for her caretakers at a rural group home in Brownsdale. DeFor told police the victim routinely gave gifts, including $3,000 for DeFor’s wife to take a trip to a national bowling tournament. In January, the victim allegedly paid $5,000 to replace the furnace at DeFor’s home.

The alleged victim had lived at a group home since October 2012, though she also had an apartment at the Village Co-Op in Austin. She paid about $6,500 to the Village Co-Op at the same time as she paid about $2,400 to the group home for living expenses, according to court documents.

DeFor will be in court this October for a pretrial hearing. His trial date is set for Nov. 4.