The director of the GBI says a legal maneuver is being used as a “license to steal” from vulnerable Georgians, and he’s looking for passage of a bill in the state Legislature to change that.
“We want to stop the elderly and disabled adults having their assets stolen by family members and others who get that power of attorney,” Vernon Keenan said at the state Capitol on Tuesday. “When … they steal all the assets and they’re confronted by law enforcement, they pull out that power of attorney and wave it around like it’s their defense.”
A power of attorney is a document that someone signs to grant a trusted friend, family member or other agent to act on their behalf. Many people sign one for medical reasons, such as an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis.
Keenan was speaking at a news conference on House Bill 221. If it passes, Keenan said, his office would train law enforcement and prosecutors to go after such fraud under the new law. State Rep. Chuck Efstration, author of the bill, filed a similar bill last year.
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“I think an important aspect of the testimony we’ve heard is that there’s not a specific mention in the elder abuse statute for these types of crimes, and the danger is that law enforcement responding to reports of these offenses are in a position, or an argument is made, that this is a civil matter, (that) this isn’t a criminal matter,” Efstration said.
He said his bill makes it clear that abusing a power of attorney is a crime that should be investigated and prosecuted.
He also said the measure will make it clear that the agent — the person who has the power — must act in the best interest of the person who has signed over those powers.
Efstration said his bill would bring Georgia’s law into line with 21 other states that have enacted uniform power-of-attorney laws.
“That will provide for a form that users of this power of attorney can easily find in the law and utilize,” the Dacula Republican said.
Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee