Woman pleads guilty to swindling her aunt

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, October 22, 2017

An Albert Lea woman who reportedly stole tens of thousands of dollars from an elderly woman she knew over a period of years pleaded guilty on Thursday in Freeborn County District Court.

Darlene Mavis Kline, 67, pleaded guilty to theft by swindle.

Court documents state Kline was charged after a detective with the Albert Lea Police Department and an employee of the Freeborn County Department of Human Services met with the victim in March regarding a theft.

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The woman, who is legally blind and required assistance with household chores, cooking and moving around dating back to 2013, reported her niece, Kline, had taken at least $39,000 from her.

Court documents state the victim said she had given Kline her checkbook and asked her to get items for her, and Kline would reportedly write checks when she needed to pay a bill, and have the alleged victim sign the bill. Court documents state the elderly woman had not given Kline permission to write the checks to herself.

In a March 17 interview, Kline allegedly admitted she had written checks to herself from the victim’s account.

Court documents state she admitted sending a majority of the money to the “sweepstakes people” — a reported scam. Law enforcement told her several times the sweepstakes were a scam, and she reportedly advised she could pay the victim back once she received the money back from the sweepstakes.

Kline reportedly admitted taking the money to pay her phone bill, cable bill, health insurance, credit card bills and electric bill and stated some of the bills were signed by the alleged victim, while some were signed by herself.

A subpoena of bank records from the victim’s account reportedly found Kline cashed $48,530 in checks to herself from the elderly woman’s account from August 2014 through March without her permission. In addition, Kline reportedly used the woman’s account to pay $9,371 in bills during the same period. Between March and August 2014, there were reportedly checks totaling $4,279 from the victim’s account by Kline without her permission.

Court documents state there were several large withdrawals and wire transfers of large sums of money to Jamaica. Between 2013 and 2015, there were reportedly transfers totaling more than $40,000.

Kline was charged with financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, but that count was dismissed.

Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 4.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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