Police: Woman ran up almost $15,000 in debt in mother’s name
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | November 21,2012
A Bristol woman is facing a felony charge after police said she opened several credit cards in her mother’s name and ran up almost $15,000 in debt at stores like Big Lots, Best Buy and online retailer Fingerhut.
Jennifer Bartlett, 35, was arraigned in Rutland criminal court Monday on a felony count of financially exploiting a vulnerable adult for more than $500 and two misdemeanor charges of using false tokens to obtain items worth less than $900.
Bartlett, who pleaded innocent, was released without bail.
In an affidavit, Officer Alexander Gaylor, of the Brandon Police Department, said police had begun investigating Bartlett in June after hearing from the daughter-in-law of Lorraine Griffin, who was 71 when the investigation began.
Griffin’s daughter-in-law said she found five credit cards that were in Griffin’s name but had another person’s signature on the back.
Gaylor said he met with Griffin on June 6. She told him she had not authorized Bartlett or anyone else to obtain credit cards in her name.
According to the affidavit, Griffin also said about $20,000 had been removed from a bank account in her name but Gaylor said he found Bartlett’s name was on the account and she had authorization to take money out.
“Lorraine stated that her sight is very bad and that she is legally blind. Lorraine told me that she believed that this contributed to her being taken advantage of by her daughter, Jennifer,” Gaylor said.
Bartlett admitted to police on June 8 that she opened credit accounts in her mother’s name but said her mother was in the store with her when she did it, the affidavit said.
Gaylor said police obtained records that showed items were purchased in 2011 from several retailers but payment was overdue. Among them, Gaylor said, was Fingerhut where the purchases included three 12-foot, inflatable figures: a penguin, a snowman and Santa Claus.
After getting information from the retailers, police spoke with Bartlett again. On Sept. 4, she met with Gaylor and an investigator from the Vermont Department of Adult Protective Services.
Gaylor said that “at one point, (Bartlett) alluded to the fact that her mother was easy to talk into things.”
The affidavit said she also told police that she had been able to conceal the bills because she used to handle her mother’s mail.
“Bartlett told us that although some of the purchases were for her mother, that she would be willing to pay them back and that some would not even offer to do that,” Gaylor said.
The total spent by Bartlett was $14,780.53, according to the affidavit.
If convicted of the charges against her, Bartlett could be sentenced to up to 12 years in jail.