Port Ludlow man gets prison sentence for bilking seniors

Leader news staff
news@ptleader.com
Posted 10/23/20

A Port Ludlow man has been sentenced to a year in prison for stealing more than $250,000 from elderly and disabled clients in Kitsap County.

Wayne Jerome Houston, 61, was owner and operator of the …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

Port Ludlow man gets prison sentence for bilking seniors

Posted

A Port Ludlow man has been sentenced to a year in prison for stealing more than $250,000 from elderly and disabled clients in Kitsap County.

Wayne Jerome Houston, 61, was owner and operator of the Cross Point Services, a guardianship organization for disabled and vulnerable adults.

Houston had been appointed by Kitsap County and Suquamish Tribal Court judges to handle finances for elderly and disabled clients, but authorities said Houston stole from them for more than seven years.

He was given a one-year prison term, plus an additional day, by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan at his Oct. 8 sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

Prosecutors said Houston raided the accounts of 21 different clients. 

Bryan called it “a very sad situation all the way around.”

Houston was also ordered to pay $256,336 in restitution for Social Security representative payee fraud.  

“This was not only a fraud on the federal benefits system that is designed to provide a safety net for our most vulnerable, it was a fraud on the court which endeavors to protect such vulnerable elders,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran.

“On each of the 240 times he transferred funds, withdrew cash, or wrote checks for his own benefit, this defendant betrayed the trust that had been placed in him,” Moran added.

Houston and his company were responsible for managing the financial affairs of about two dozen clients a month, according to court documents.

Houston had access to the clients’ bank accounts so he could pay rent, utilities, and other bills for them, according to the plea agreement. 

Social Security benefits, however, were paid into some of the accounts for at least 13 clients who required a representative payee to manage their benefits. Authorities said that starting in 2010, Houston used his position as guardian to write checks to himself from the victim accounts. 

He also wrote checks to Cross Point Services, or to cash, and used ATMs to withdraw money from client accounts and used it for his own expenses.

Prosecutors said he targeted clients who had significant income or resources so that the theft was less likely to be detected. A total of 21 clients were victims of theft, ranging from a low of $200 to more than $66,000.

“The true victims may never be made whole,” retired Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Anna Laurie told the court before Houston’s sentencing. 

“At least two have died since his criminal conduct became visible, and many went months without sufficient resources while their successor guardians struggled to pay bills and maintain care,” she added.

A granddaughter of one of the victims said her 90-year-old grandfather “was left with nothing.”

“He got ill and we had to fight for his care. It was so hard having to tell him that once again he had been betrayed ... That he didn’t have any money to pay his bills because Mr. Houston had taken it,” she added.

The case was investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment