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State v. Arthurs

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District

July 18, 2013


Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-565849

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Scott D. Claussen Law Office of Scott Claussen

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Timothy J. McGinty Cuyahoga County Prosecutor James A. Gutierrez Assistant Prosecuting Attorney The Justice Center

BEFORE: S. Gallagher, J., Stewart, A.J., and EA. Gallagher, J.



{¶ 1} Defendant-appellant Matthew Arthurs appeals from his convictions for theft. For the following reasons, we affirm.

{¶ 2} The Cuyahoga County Department of Senior and Adult Services received a hotline referral on August 25, 2011, regarding concerns of exploitation of an elderly victim, Richard Maddock. According to the referral, between May 21, 2009 and August 18, 2011, Maddock gave $415, 518 to his neighbor, Arthurs.

{¶3} Melissa Farone, a social worker with more than ten years' experience, commenced her investigation of the case on August 25, 2011, by meeting with Maddock at his Lakewood apartment. She testified that Maddock was 77 years old, never married, lived alone, and used a cane. Farone did not see a television or any expensive furniture in Maddock's apartment. Maddock admitted to her that he gave the money to his only friend and acquaintance, Arthurs.

{¶4} Farone met with Maddock again on August 31, 2011. She obtained a release from Maddock in order for her to speak about him with Arthurs. Farone testified that following this visit, she went to the Lakewood Police Department with her belief that Arthurs was exploiting Maddock.

{¶5} During her fourth visit with Maddock on September 19, 2011, Maddock signed a service plan at Farone's request. Concerned about Maddock's judgment and his overall thought process, Farone recommended a geriatric assessment as part of the service plan to review Maddock's ability to make independent decisions.

{¶ 6} Farone testified that her first attempt to meet with Arthurs failed when Arthurs did not answer his door even though she thought she heard the television inside the apartment. Farone ran into Arthurs, however, as she exited the apartment building after her fourth visit with Maddock. Farone testified that Arthurs knew immediately she was at the building to visit Maddock. When Farone asked about the money he received from Maddock, Arthurs initially responded that it amounted to "thousands of dollars." Farone asked for a more specific figure, and Arthurs replied that it was about $100, 000.

{¶ 7} Although Arthurs told Farone that he used the money to pay bills, rent, and automobile repairs, Farone testified that he admitted "[h]e didn't have anything to show for the money." Arthurs also told Farone that he used some of the money to retain an attorney who advised Arthurs that "if the person wasn't demented, that it was okay that he gave him the money."

{¶ 8} Arthurs provided Farone with one of five to six copies of a letter dated September 12, 2011, addressed to her from Maddock. The letter indicated that when Maddock was in the hospital for heart surgery, the doctors and staff did not find any evidence of dementia; Maddock voluntarily gave Arthurs the money; Arthurs reimbursed Maddock on September 10, 2011 for $1, 000; and Maddock wanted to remain independent and take care of himself, and not have to undergo a geriatric assessment. Farone testified that the letter's contents were not a surprise to her because none of her clients desire a geriatric assessment.

{¶ 9} Farone testified that Maddock informed her of his history of heart problems and loss of hearing. Farone also learned that while Maddock was in the hospital for the heart surgery, Arthurs brought Maddock his checkbook and Maddock wrote him checks.

10} Valeri Koehler, a social worker and investigator for the probate court with 12 years of experience, evaluated Maddock's need for a guardian based on Farone's investigation. Her primary responsibility is to "assess the need for guardianship in a person for whom guardianship has been applied for, and to serve notice to the person as to upcoming guardianship and pending application." Koehler testified that guardianship may be appropriate when a person is being considered for adjudication as mentally incompetent.

11} Koehler also testified that when she met Maddock, "the first thing that was really dramatic was how apparently unconcerned [Maddock] was about loaning his neighbor over $300, 000." She found Maddock's general denial about concerns over the loans as itself "a cause for concern."

12} Koehler had other than financial concerns related to Maddock because of vulnerability displayed during her visit with him in November 2011. She testified that his vulnerabilities included his elderly age, "physically not intact" nature, and cognitive impairments. Koehler also testified about learning from his medical records of Maddock's cognitive disorder diagnosis in 2010.

{¶ 13} Koehler testified that her written report describes Maddock as "of at least average intelligence, but has extremely impaired insight and judgment, with regards [sic] to his management of finances." Maddock also "presents as having a naive or very susceptible and vulnerable perception of the world around him, rather than being unintelligent." Koehler testified that Maddock generally responded to her questions in a logical manner, except she found illogical his lack of concern over his money or Arthurs's taking advantage of him.

{ΒΆ 14} Because of her concerns about Maddock's insight and judgment, Koehler testified that she served him with a notice of guardianship. On December 13, 2011, the probate court assigned Maddock a ...

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