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Jonesborough couple reportedly exploited elderly residents

Jennifer Sprouse • Mar 22, 2013 at 9:41 PM

Two Jonesborough residents, one named as the caregiver of two elderly people, were arrested Thursday on exploitation charges after they alledgedly wrote checks without permission from both victims’ bank accounts to themselves and withdrew large amounts of money daily from local ATMs, according to a restraining order filed in court.

After a four-month Johnson City police investigation with assistance from Tennessee Adult Protective Services and the 1st Judicial District Attorney General’s Office, Jama Curtis, 39, and Tony Curtis, 40, both of 1412 Mill Springs Road, Jonesborough, were indicted by a Washington County grand jury, a police news release said.

Jama Curtis was acting as the caregiver of a non-married couple, Ben A. Roberts, 85, and Billie Godwin, 82, according to Assistant District Attorney General Erin McArdle.

Jama Curtis was granted power of attorney for Roberts on July 13, 2012, to assist him and provide for his medical care and well-being, as he had been diagnosed with dementia.

According to McArdle, who filed the restraining order against the Curtises, from Sept. 20 to Nov. 9, Jama Curtis started withdrawing up to $1,000 daily from ATM machines in both Jonesborough and Johnson City from Roberts’ account. The total amount she withdrew is estimated at $47,014.

From July 12, to Oct. 31, Jama Curtis allegedly wrote checks from Roberts’ account payable to herself and also to her husband Tony’s business for work that was never authorized or completed.

McArdle stated in the restraining order that approximately $84,943.51 was made out in checks to the Curtises.

Roberts was placed in a nursing home on Oct. 29 and still resides there.

Jama Curtis did make payments to the nursing home on Roberts’ behalf, but some payments were not timely, according to McArdle.

Jama Curtis was also placed on Godwin’s bank account, and from June 11 until her death on Jan. 10, and possibly after Godwin’s death, she withdrew approximately $18,000 by using checks.

Godwin, who eventually had to be cared for in a nursing home before her death, had signed a written statement on Dec. 12 that said both Jama and Tony Curtis were not allowed to write any checks to themselves, according to the restraining order.

Both Jama and Tony Curtis were indicted by presentment on charges of theft over $60,000, theft over $10,000 and willful exploitation of an elderly adult.

McArdle said she filed the restraining order so the couple could no longer access the accounts, and said Judge Robert Cupp had signed a 15-day restraining order and will hold a hearing next week to rule on extending the order.

She said the investigation is continuing and if other illegal transactions are found, the Curtises could face additional charges.

Theft over $60,000 is a Class B felony that carries a sentence of eight to 12 years in prison, theft over $10,000 is a Class C felony that carries a sentence of three to six years and willful exploitation of an adult is a Class E felony that carries a sentence of one to two years in prison.

The Curtises were jailed in the Washington County Detention Center on $92,000 bond each pending Criminal Court appearances on Thursday at 9 a.m.

Press Staff Writer Becky Campbell contributed to this report.

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