Long Beach woman convicted of elder abuse, forgery and fraud, sentenced to four years in prison (CA)

LONG BEACH — A 55-year-old caretaker should consider herself lucky to be sentenced to just four years in prison for stealing a small fortune from an elderly Long Beach woman, a judge declared Friday.

Li Ching Liu was convicted earlier this month on a single count of elder abuse through forgery and fraud for stealing the 74-year-old stroke victim’s life savings.

The jury that convicted Liu, however, did not find true a special circumstance allegation that the theft totaled more than $1 million because there was not enough of a paper trail to prove the total amount — estimated at more than $4 million — stolen, authorities said.

Had jurors found that allegation to be true, Liu would have faced far more time behind bars, Long Beach Superior Court Judge Arthur Jean noted as he handed down the maximum term allowed on Friday.

Nonetheless, authorities were relieved to see Liu convicted for her crimes and heartened to know the victim lived long enough to see her abuser turn herself in to police in 2010.

The victim died before the trial began this year, said Lisa Massacani, a Long Beach Police Department spokeswoman.

LBPD Detective Stacey Holdredge said the case was so egregious it is one she will likely never forget.

The victim hired Liu in 2002 after the victim suffered a debilitating stroke that left her in need of 24-hour care, the forgery and fraud detective said.

Up until that point the victim had led an independent life. She was a single woman who never
married or had children and through wise business investments – including commercial real estate – built a sizable personal fortune.

Before the stroke, the victim was extremely social with extended family and friends, Holdredge said.

Problems developed quickly within one year of Liu being hired, who isolated the victim from her family, friends and the team of financial professionals she had used, the detective said.

Physical abuse and neglect compounded Liu’s control over the victim, with Liu even withholding food from the elderly victim to make her comply.

Over a period of six years Liu drained the victim’s bank accounts, writing checks from the victim’s account and depositing the money into other bank accounts to launder the funds.

“The suspect laundered over $4 million through 63 different accounts held at six different banks,” Holdredge said, noting the banks were the first to raise the alert after noticing the problem.

Liu’s extended family also went to police around the same time after Liu suffered another major health setback that put her in the hospital, and allowed her relatives to have access to her for the first time in many years.

But none of that happened soon enough to stop Liu from forcing the victim to sell a profitable Westminster strip mall, purchase large amounts of jewelry and spend countless dollars on gambling trips to Las Vegas and other casino spots.

“I’m told Liu has a gambling problem,” the detective said in 2008.

The victim’s money was used to buy a Porsche SUV and a Temple City house for Liu and her boyfriend, who owns a pawn shop. The Long Beach woman’s earnings were also used to pay for USC college tuition and a BMW for Liu’s son, Holdredge said.

When the arrest warrants were served three years ago, the boyfriend and son were arrested at that time and convicted the following year of financial elder abuse.

Liu was able to escape authorities and remained at large until police went public with the search in the Press-Telegram in August of 2010.

She turned herself in three days after the story ran.

The convicted thief offered no apology or explanation for her crimes at her sentencing Friday.

Police and prosecutors, however, vowed to recover as much of the loss as possible for the victim’s estate.


Long Beach woman convicted of elder abuse, forgery and fraud, sentenced to four years in prison
Victim did not live long enough to see abuser convicted
Tracy Manzer
May 27, 2011