Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin announced that Janet Mastronardi, age 54, of 76 Goodwin Street, East Greenwich, pled nolo contendere yesterday to embezzlement and elder exploitation for embezzling nearly $130,000 from an elderly woman. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Mastronardi was sentenced by Superior Court Justice Walter R. Stone to seven years, with 30 months in home confinement and 54 months suspended with probation. The State had requested the defendant be incarcerated at the ACI for a period of time, but the Court agreed with the defense request for home confinement in consideration of the defendant paying full restitution of $129,107.57 in advance of yesterday's plea and sentencing.
Had the case proceeded to trial, the State was prepared to show that in 2005, Janet Mastronardi, who was a practicing attorney at the time, was given power of attorney over Jane Jacques, an 80 year old woman, because of Jacques' deteriorating health and lack of immediate family nearby to care for her. Sometime later that year, Mastronardi was appointed as guardian over Jacques, responsible for her personal and financial well-being.
In 2010, an employee of defendant's became aware of financial irregularities while preparing an accounting of Ms. Jacques finances for the probate court. Specifically, it appeared as though Mastronardi was double billing Ms. Jacques for services rendered in conjunction with the guardianship. The individual contacted the Rhode Island State Police, who conducted an investigation. It was determined that in total, defendant embezzled and misappropriated $129, 107.57 from Jacques' accounts.
According to the National Council on Aging, financial exploitation is the third-most commonly substantiated type of elder abuse. Also underreported, it is estimated that the annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse exceeds $2.6 billion annually nationwide.
"Many elders rely on others they think they can trust to handle their financial affairs, only to be robbed of their hard-earned money. In some cases, the perpetrator leaves the victim penniless. Financial exploitation of elders is one of the most challenging charges to investigate and prosecute," said Attorney General Kilmartin
To address these hurdles, the General Assembly passed and Governor Chafee signed a bill filed at the request of Attorney General Kilmartin that increases the statute of limitations for elder exploitation from three years to ten years. This initiative recognizes the complexities of financial crimes and the challenges of protecting a population that may have physical and mental limitations by extending the statute of limitations. Now, law enforcement has reasonable time to investigate a case in preparation for charging and prosecution.
"Like other forms of abuse, elder abuse is a complex problem and it is easy for people to have misconceptions about it. Many people who hear 'elder abuse and neglect' think about older people living in nursing homes or about elderly relatives who live all alone and never have visitors. But elder abuse is not just a problem of older people we never see. It is right in our midst, and as Attorney General, I am committed to doing all I can to protect all of the citizens of our state," continued Kilmartin.
Detective Sergeant Robert Creamer and Investigator Gerard Ratigan of the Rhode Island State Police led the investigation. Assistant Attorney General and Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division Maureen Keough prosecuted the case on behalf of the Office of Attorney General.