Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 12:07 am
Woman who stole from elderly goes to prison
“This is an elder abuse ATM”
Coliene Moore, 69, was hit with a restitution order exceeding $636,000 when Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz sentenced her last month to four years for stealing from her elderly aunt. Ruth Lanier, now deceased, was 85 when Moore stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from her during a three-month period that ended in February of 2012.
Authorities say that Moore also stole nearly $82,000 from her mother, Mary Catherine Dormire, who was in her 90s when her daughter, her mother’s caretaker, raided bank accounts. Dormire is now deceased.
“Make no mistake, this is a callous, cold, calculating elder abuse crime spree,” Belz said when he sentenced Moore on Aug. 15. “Money was taken in astronomical, almost unbelievable amounts from people who didn’t deserve it.”
Authorities are still trying to determine whether there are additional culprits, as well as the extent of losses from a thief who stole both from relatives and from coworkers at the Illinois State Department of Transportation, where Moore worked as a secretary for nearly 40 years.
“It is still under investigation,” says Sangamon County state’s attorney John Milhiser. “And additional charges are possible.”
Moore convinced friends from work to loan her money – in one case, a former coworker gave her $287,000, according to police files -- and was slow to pay it back. In another instance, Moore convinced a coworker to loan her $48,000. She eventually made good on some debts to IDOT colleagues, according to police files and court records, but with stolen money. When victims asked for their money, Moore would typically tell them that she was expecting a sizable inheritance and would pay up when the money arrived.
“It is apparent that she continually seems to await the death of a relative and an opportunity to inherit their money in order to pay off prior thefts that she has committed,” assistant state’s attorney John Morse told the judge in arguing for a prison term.
In arguing for leniency, Dan Fultz, Moore’s lawyer, told the judge that “the problem may fix itself.”
“Nobody is ever going to trust Ms. Moore with their money again, as they shouldn’t,” Fultz told the court.
If nothing else, Moore was brazen. She gave the state’s attorney’s office a $473,500 check for restitution to cover losses in the Lanier case even before charges were filed in 2013. The check was signed by Moore’s mother, who suffered from mental disabilities to the point that she couldn’t handle her affairs, according to court files.
“The state’s attorney called and said ‘Carol, you won’t believe it – are you sitting down?’” recalls Carol Shepard, executor of Lanier’s estate, of a call she got from the Sangamon County state’s attorney’s office when the check was delivered in January of 2013. Shepard says that she advised the state’s attorney’s office to verify that funds actually were in a trust account that was in the name of Moore’s mother. Sure enough, the check bounced. “The state’s attorney called back and said, ‘Carol, you were right again: There’s no money there,’” Shepard said.
The check bounced nine months after police obtained bank records and confronted Moore. But charges weren’t filed until the spring of 2013, one year after police, interrogated Moore. Why weren’t charges filed earlier?
“There were ongoing negotiations as to restitution,” answers Milhiser. The state’s attorney adds that Moore lost power of attorney, which allowed her to raid bank accounts, when losses came to light, long before charges were filed.
Over the objection of Moore’s lawyer, a guardian in the spring of 2013 was appointed to protect Moore’s mother, who continued living with her daughter, described as her primary caregiver in court documents. Dormire, Moore’s mother, continued living with her daughter even after prosecutors in 2014 charged Moore with stealing from Dormire. Charges involving Moore’s mother ultimately were dropped in exchange for a guilty plea in the Lanier case.
Moore spent plenty of money on herself, paying off at least $20,000 in credit card debt and a $16,000 note on a Nissan titled in her mother’s name but that she drove. Checks went to merchants ranging from Walmart to the Fifth Street Flower Shop to Victoria’s Secret. Tens of thousands of dollars also were spent for the benefit of friends and relatives from pilfered accounts belonging to Moore’s aunt and mother, according to court and police files. A hairdresser got a check for $2,500. Moore’s son, Brian, received checks totaling nearly $16,000, and Moore also paid $11,700 in rent for the duplex where her son lived. Meanwhile, a nursing home where her aunt stayed after breaking a hip went unpaid and ultimately sued Lanier and Moore to collect more than $20,000.
“This is an elder abuse ATM,” Judge Belz decreed as he sent Moore to prison.
Shortly after obtaining power of attorney from her aunt, who told police that she didn’t realize that she had given her niece access to bank accounts, Moore in 2011 wrote a check for $19,000 to help Mark and Christine Kolaz buy a 2007 Mercedes Benz sedan, making the check out to the dealership. Kolaz, a lobbyist who was once chief of staff for Central Management Services, insists that he knew nothing about the deal, even though his name appears as a purchaser on the sales invoice and delivery sheet from Friendly Chevrolet.
“I’m not really familiar with that situation,” Kolaz said.
Mark and Christine Kolaz were divorced in 2002 but continued living in the same house. The dealership delivery sheet shows they had the same address and same home phone number in 2011. Mark Kolaz declined to discuss whether he still lives with his ex-wife, who in 2007 was accused by her father’s beer distributorship of embezzling $1.3 million after Christine Kolaz filed for bankruptcy, according to bankruptcy court files and stories published by the Associated Press. The U.S. attorney’s office investigated the alleged embezzlement, according to the Associated Press, but filed no charges.
Fultz, Moore’s attorney, told the judge that relatives “clearly had to understand that she wasn’t able to afford the things that she was providing, based on an Illinois Department of Transportation secretarial salary.” The judge found it odd that people who benefited from Moore’s thievery accepted large amounts of money from a woman who earned less than $54,000 a year.
“This is not stealing from the rich and giving to the poor,” Belz said as he pronounced sentence. “You know, I have to question some of these other people, if they didn’t know what was going on, that were the recipients of this.”
Fultz told the court that Moore’s son and daughter, Kimberly Krum, declined to testify on their mother’s behalf at the sentencing hearing after being told that they could be cross-examined to determine whether they knew that their moher was a thief and whether they benefited from her crimes.
Joby Crum, Kimberly Crum’s husband, said that neither his wife nor anyone else in the family knew about any thefts until last month, when Moore was taken into custody four years after charges were filed. He told Illinois Times that he has been appointed to speak for relatives.
“This completely blindsided the family,” said Joby Crum, who is the boys basketball coach at Springfield High School. “I would consider us to be fairly intelligent people, and we had no idea what was going on. … We don’t want anyone hurt any further than what has happened, and our fear is that might have happened.”
Moore’s husband filed for divorce on Sept. 13, telling the court that he had no idea that his wife was in legal trouble or had stolen money until she was arrested at Memorial Medical Center in August, two days after going to the hospital with complaints of a blood clot instead of going to court, where she was due to be sentenced. The no-show prompted Judge Belz to issue an arrest warrant. In his divorce petition, Jeffrey Moore says he believes that his wife might have a gambling problem.
The first sign of trouble came on Nov. 8, 2011, when a Sangamon County sheriff’s detective was summoned to St. Johns Hospital to speak with Don Lerch, a former IDOT employee who was dying from lung cancer.
Lerch told the detective that Moore, whom he knew from work, had asked to borrow money in 2007 to help a relative who was in a squeeze. Don’t worry, Moore told Lerch: My aunt is about to die and I’ll repay you from my inheritance.
It started out with $6,500, and loans kept coming until Lerch had given Moore $287,000 over a two-year period, according to police reports. Lerch continually asked for repayment, but never got it. Eventually, Moore told Lerch that her aunt had died, but had given all her money to Moore’s mother. Moore told Lerch that her mother was nearly dead and that she’d repay him once she got her inheritance.
Shortly after Lerch spoke with police, Moore obtained power of attorney from Lanier, which gave her access to her aunt’s bank accounts. Using her aunt’s funds, Moore obtained a $246,000 cashier’s check to pay Lerch, who died two weeks before the check was written. Nonetheless, the check cleared, according to police files. It’s not clear how, nor is it clear whether the money ended up in Lerch’s estate.
Police next encountered Moore in March 2012, when Senior Services of Central Illinois reported that Moore had been draining her aunt’s bank accounts since obtaining power of attorney three months earlier. Lanier told police that she was “shocked and very upset” that her niece had been taking money. After being confronted by a sheriff’s detective who asked about questionable withdrawals from Lanier’s accounts, Moore said that she’d been good to her aunt.
“I want you to know, and I’ll put this on the record: There has been no one that has been any better to Ruth than my family and myself,” Moore told the detective. “I have done everything for the last 40 years plus, never ask for anything, OK? I have cared for her, I have taken her to doctor appointments. … I’m not making any excuses for myself, but I did everything I could for her. I don’t know what she’s saying, but I know what she said to me. (It) sounds terrible, but I have been good to her.”
Moore, however, wasn’t an exemplary caregiver for her mother, according to court files. In moving to appoint a guardian for Dormire after thefts from Lanier came to light, Kevin McDermott, Sangamon County public guardian, told the court that Moore’s mother, who was born in 1919, was found alone in her Moore’s home a half-dozen times between August of 2012 and February of 2013 by Senior Services of Central Illinois. Over the objection of Moore’s lawyer, the court appointed McDermott as Dormire’s temporary guardian. But Dormire kept living with her daughter, even after Moore was charged with stealing from her mother.
McDermott says the only other option was a nursing home, and there had never been an allegation of physical or emotional abuse.
“That being the case, she’s probably just as well off with her daughter, staying with her,” McDermott said.
Contact Bruce Rushton at firstname.lastname@example.org.