Thursday, July 11, 2002

Home health aide to be charged in theft

Published in the Current

A female home health care nurse is expected to be charged with theft for stealing jewelry and a blank check from an elderly Cape Elizabeth woman in her care.

The theft, reported on June 17, involved the patient’s wedding ring and other jewelry, stolen from an area in the home that is not regularly visited by the patient, whose mobility is restricted.

The wedding ring and the check have been recovered, according to Detective Paul Fenton.

The suspect, whose name is not being released yet, was also working in another Cape residence. She was the second nurse in that residence, as her predecessor had been fired for stealing as well. The family in that home had hidden all valuables and did not report any thefts by the suspect in the wedding ring theft.

The home health agency is cooperating with the investigation, Fenton said.

He had three suspects and has narrowed his list down to two with the help of a polygraph test. The remaining two suspects have not yet taken a polygraph test, Fenton said.

Fenton suggested that people take special care in screening any workers who may be in their homes, including contractors, home health aides and cleaning people. He recommended hiding valuables in a safe place, and checking all hiding places regularly.

He even mentioned “testing” in-home workers by leaving small amounts of money in semi-hidden places, or places in which it might have been forgotten. By checking those places, residents may be able to learn whether their in-home workers are honest or not, Fenton said.

Employers or third-party services may be available to perform background checks, but Fenton cautioned that those will only turn up people who have been caught in the past, and can’t predict who might commit crimes for the first time.