Centerville couple accused of defrauding elderly man with dementia

jmink@macon.comOctober 24, 2012 

PERRY -- A grand jury has indicted a Centerville couple accused of defrauding an elderly man with dementia in what authorities say is one of the biggest fraud cases to hit the community.

William and Cheri E. Cox, both of Calvin Court, were indicted Tuesday in Houston County Superior Court for allegedly defrauding the man of about $182,000 between February and August, according to the indictment released Wednesday. But more charges are expected, and police say the couple took about $500,000 from the 80-year-old Centerville man, said Centerville police Sgt. Phillip Pritchett, the lead detective on the case.

“We investigate probably well over 100 financial fraud cases a year,” he said. “However, in my 10 years of service, this is probably the largest I’ve ever come across.”

Cheri Cox was a caregiver for the man, who is retired from the Air Force and Robins Air Force Base, Pritchett said.

After the man’s former caretaker was killed in a car accident a year ago, Cheri Cox befriended the man “and started taking his money,” Pritchett said.

After someone reported strange activity on the man’s bank account, Centerville police obtained search warrants for the Coxes’ residence.

With the help of the GBI, police arrested Cheri Cox on July 20 and William Cox on July 24, Pritchett said. Cheri Cox was released Sept. 25 from the Houston County jail on a $40,000 bond, and William Cox was released the same day on a $25,000 bond, according to the jail.

The victim was moved to an assisted living facility for his protection, Pritchett said.

When reached by phone, Cheri Cox declined to comment and hung up before giving the name of her attorney, which was not included in the indictment.

Both William and Cheri Cox were charged with abuse, neglect and exploitation of an elderly or disabled adult; financial transaction card theft; two counts of theft by taking and nine counts of financial transaction card fraud.

Cheri Cox also was charged with five counts of forgery and an additional count of financial transaction card fraud, and William Cox was charged with an additional count of financial transaction card fraud.

The Coxes are accused of using the man’s bank card, taking $120,000 in cash and transferring more than $13,400 of the man’s money into one of their personal accounts without his permission.

Cheri Cox is also accused of forging checks worth more than a total of $25,000 from the man’s account. The couple is accused of using the man’s bank card at home improvement, gun and pawn, furniture, sports, jewelry, auto and pool and spa stores, as well as to make a payment on a credit card and for purchases at a fencing company, according to the indictment.

Additionally, Pritchett claims the couple purchased a $30,000 pontoon boat with the man’s money and used his card 432 times.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Erikka Williams, who is prosecuting the case, declined to comment on the specifics.

“I can say the amount that is alleged is a very large amount and probably one of the largest amounts we’ve dealt with in these elder abuse cases,” she said.

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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