Police have arrested two former employees of Lincoln Park nursing home in Chicago after they were accused of stealing a 98-year-old grandmother’s life savings, reports the Chicago Tribune. Tameeka Wolfe, 40, and Christina Wright, 32, were arrested last week and charged with “one felony count of financial exploitation of an elderly person.” They allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from 98-year-old Grace Watanabe who suffers from dementia.
“You know, I’m angry and just terribly disappointed,” Grace Watanabe told CBS Chicago.
According to prosecutors, Wolfe allegedly stole $136,900 while Wright allegedly stole $205,197. In total, authorities believe more than $700,000 was stolen from Watanabe by a group of employees.
“The two individuals who the state charged today were the highest-ranking employees of Symphony – the business manager and the activities director – who together took about a half million dollars; $500,000,” Charles Golbert, the Cook County Public Guardian said. “They were clearly the ringleaders of all this.”
Golbert filed a lawsuit against Symcare HMG LLC and Symphony Ivy LLC, the owners of Lincoln Park nursing home, on behalf of Watanabe.
Grace Watanabe has no living relatives but was backed by the Japanese American Citizens League after they found out she was a WWII internment camp survivor.
“Full justice for Mrs. Watanabe requires that we get the money back from the civil suit, and that criminal justice happens to the perpetrators,” Golbert said.
Golbert said some of the employees named in the lawsuit have given the money back.
According to the Chicago Tribune, five employees allegedly stole from Watanabe by fraudulent checks, unauthorized use of her ATM card, and adding their names to her bank account. Bank of America became suspicious of Watanabe’s withdrawals and alerted the Illinois Adult Protective Services program.
Watanabe was living in the nursing home since 2010 until 2018, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Dr. Geoffrey Shaw stated earlier this year that Watanabe had not been able to make financial decisions since 2016. Watanabe expressed concerns that employees were stealing from her at that time.
Watanabe was born in Santa Cruz, California in 1921. She was imprisoned in an Arizona internment camp from 1942 to 1946. After she was released she earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Illinois in Chicago.
Symphony company spokesperson said the employees accused of stealing from Watanabe were fired and that they have cooperated with police.