PORTLAND - A Multnomah County grand jury indicted a Portland woman accused of charging more than $40,000 to credit cards fraudulenlty obtained in her elderly mother's name.
Elizabeth M. Patterson, 59, pleaded not guilty at her arraignment Monday to charges of forgery, theft, mail theft, identity theft and criminal mistreatment. She remains in jail and a trial date has been scheduled for Oct. 21.
Police said Patterson moved in with her ailing mother in 2005 to provide care. The alleged scam was uncovered when Patterson went on vacation and a daughter-in-law stayed with the 77-year-old woman.
According to court papers, the daughter-in-law found multiple credit card statements in the mail addressed to the mother, and learned that nine credit card accounts had been opened without her knowledge.
Police said Patterson, who does not have a criminal record, told an investigating officer she started the fraud to help pay for medical bills. Aside from the fraudulent credit card accounts, Patterson is accused of forging her mother's signature on a traffic citation she received. Court papers say Patterson paid the ticket with a money order she also forged with her mother's name.
The mother told police a collections agency came after her earlier this year, and she gave them $4,000 from her checking account.
The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that roughly two-thirds of those who take advantage of the elderly are relatives, most often the victim's adult child or spouse. National statistics also show that between 1 million and 2 million Americans older than 65 have been exploited or mistreated by someone whom they relied on for care.