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People v. Chenoweth

Supreme Court of Illinois

January 23, 2015


Page 613

Reversed and remanded.


Where a defendant charged with felony exploitation of the elderly had been granted a property power of attorney by the victim, the statutory limitation provision on theft involving breach of a fiduciary obligation was applicable, and, in allowing prosecution " within one year after the proper prosecuting officer becomes aware of the offense," rendered timely the three-count indictment filed within one year of the date on which the state's attorney received from an elder-services detective with the police department the report on which the indictment would be based.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Springfield, and Jonathan H. Barnard, State's Attorney, of Quincy (Carolyn E. Shapiro, Solicitor General, and Michael M. Glick and Drew Meyer, Assistant Attorneys General, of Chicago, of counsel), for the People.

Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Jacqueline L. Bullard, Deputy Defender, and Janieen R. Tarrance, Assistant Appellate Defender, of the Office of the State Appellate Defender, of Springfield, for appellee.

JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Thomas, Kilbride, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.



Page 614

Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Adams County, defendant, Barbara J. Chenoweth, was convicted of financial exploitation of an elderly person (720 ILCS 5/16-1.3(a) (West 2004)) and sentenced to four years' probation and ordered to pay $32,266 in restitution. A divided panel of the appellate court vacated the conviction, holding that the extended period of limitations (720 ILCS 5/3-6(a)(2) (West 2004)) had expired prior to her prosecution. 2013 IL App. (4th) 120334, 996 N.E.2d 1258, 375 Ill.Dec. 202. This court allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010). We now reverse the judgment of the appellate court and remand the cause to that court for disposition.


The victim, Ella Stathakis, was born in 1928. Defendant was the daughter of Ella's husband and is Ella's stepdaughter. In 2003, Ella's husband died. In March 2003, Ella granted property power of attorney to defendant. In June 2004, Ella moved from her home of 25 years to the Sycamore Nursing Home, both of which are located in Quincy. Sometime after her move, Ella directed defendant to sell the house. In March 2005, defendant sold Ella's house and deposited some of the proceeds of the sale in Ella's checking account with Bank of America.

In September 2008, Ella granted property power of attorney to the West Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging in the person of Director Lynn Niewohner. In October 2008, agency employees contacted Detective Thomas Liesen, the elder-services officer with the Quincy police department. They informed him that money from the March 2005 sale of Ella's house was missing.

Detective Liesen testified at the preliminary hearing as follows. On October 15, 2008, he interviewed Ella at her nursing home. Ella, then 80 years old, could not see or hear well and required assistance to walk, but she could understand and verbally communicate. According to Detective Liesen, " [Ella] was wondering where the funds went from the sale of her home, wanted to know where it went. She had never been told, and she just wanted to know where it was." According to Detective Liesen, " she had no actual knowledge at that time how the funds out of her account had been spent, whether it was lawfully or unlawfully." He " had no real information as to whether the expenditures of [defendant] or the withdrawals from *** Ella's account were lawful or unlawful." Detective Liesen further testified: " [Ella] didn't know the nature of the transactions. I didn't ask her whether these transactions were authorized or not until after I received the information from the subpoena."

Two days after interviewing Ella, Detective Liesen caused a subpoena to issue for Ella's Bank of America checking account records from December 2004 through July 2005. He received the records in the mail on December 2, 2008, and began to analyze them, creating a spreadsheet

Page 615

to track what he believed to be suspicious payments. Liesen regarded as suspicious checks payable to " cash," checks payable to Mark Twain Casino, a check payable to the utility company for defendant's address, and a check payable to the telephone company for defendant's daughter's telephone.

The bank records also indicated that defendant presented several checks for deposit in Ella's checking account, but retained substantial portions of each check in cash and deposited only the remainder. For example, in March 2005, defendant presented for deposit a check for $44,007.75, which constituted the proceeds from the sale of Ella's house. However, defendant actually deposited only $34,007.75. Of the $10,000 defendant retained, she obtained a cashier's check payable to a local automobile dealer for $4,000 to purchase a car for her daughter Christina Shannon. Also, some of these partially deposited checks were drawn on a line of credit provided by Beneficial ...

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