Grace Watanabe has been through some great difficulties in her 97 years on this planet. When she was young, she survived the hardships of living in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. In her later years, she developed a debilitating case of dementia which left her in need of round-the-clock care at a nursing home. And now, she’s dealing with the loss of much of her life savings to the very people who were supposed to be taking care of her.
Staff members at Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park have been accused of stealing a whopping $850,000 from the elderly woman in the form of personal checks. The staff members in question could not be reached for comment, but they’ve reportedly said that Watanabe authorized the checks as gifts to them to thank them for their care.
The forged checks were written out for huge amounts like $10,000, $30,000, and $50,000 each. Staff members also allegedly used Watanabe’s personal passwords and PIN numbers to withdraw money from ATMs and electronic withdrawals.
“The duty was to take care of her, and she had no family to take care of her and watch over her,” says concerned citizen Maile Solis.
Two individual employees are believed to have stolen the majority of the money, explains Dawn Lawkowski-Keller of Cook County Public Guardian. “Christina Wright, assistant activities director, she took well over $300,000 from Ms. Watanabe and then Tameeka Wolfe and her daughter, who took well over $280,000.”
“It’s a shocking betrayal of trust and theft,” says attorney Steve Levin.
The care home management was shocked to learn what had happened and is doing everything in their power to ensure nothing like this happens again in their facility, including cooperating totally with the investigation.
“The employees suspected of involvement are no longer employed at the facility, and all staff were retrained in company policies relating to receiving gifts from residents and their families. The team at the Residences has done everything in its power to prevent this from happening again,” a statement from Symphony Residences read. “If they were supervising their employees appropriately, we don’t believe this would have happened.
The seven care home workers could now be facing charges for their alleged crimes. The case will go to court in January. It is unclear at this time whether any of Ms. Watanabe’s funds will be able to be recovered.
Watch the video below to hear from more concerned citizens who are fighting for justice for Ms. Watanabe.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?