Police: Caregiver arrested after stealing over $9K from elderly woman

Police: Caregiver arrested after cashing stolen checks worth over $9K from elderly woman
Posted at 1:56 PM, Aug 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-03 13:48:58-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - A Monticello caregiver is facing 46 charges after she took more than $9,000 from an elderly patient using stolen checks.

Valdase Barnhart, 57, was arrested by the Leon County Sheriff's Office on Thursday. 

On Jan. 24, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office responded to Capital City Bank on South Jefferson Street in Monticello. 

When JCSO deputies arrived, they talked with the victim, who said her caregiver, Barnhart, had stolen checks from her dating back to July 2017 and cashed them for $9,300. 

When deputies talked with an employee at Capital City Bank, they said since the victim pre-signed the checks, she would not be refunded her money. 

About two months later, the Tallahassee Police Department took over the investigation since Barnhart cashed the checks in Tallahassee. 

On May 30, TPD officers followed up with the victim at her home.  

While talking with police, the victim said she did not fill out the date, who the check was for, or the amount on the checks, she only filled out her signature. 

The victim said she was going to use those checks to pay bills, and since she needed Barnhart to pay her bills, all Barnhart needed to do was fill in the additional information.

When officers asked why the victim hired Barnhart, she stated "she was helping take care of me."   The victim said Barnhart was hired to stay with her and take her to the doctor and dialysis appointments. 

The victim further stated that Barnhart was living in her house for free, which was part of Barnhart's pay for taking care of her. 

The victim told officers she has only known Barnhart for a couple of years and met Barnhart through her husband's nephew, when the family was looking for a caregiver. 

Officers showed the victim copies of the checks they had, and she verified the signatures were hers, but stated none of the other information was written by her, or with her permission. 

The victim told officers that the best she could do was "scribble" her name on the signature line, and she could not fill out the other information due to lack of ability to use her right arm. 

According to the police report, the victim is confined to a wheelchair, and requires assistance to use the bathroom, wash herself, change clothes, and take medication. The victim also requires assistance to travel to the doctor, other appointments, and to buy food. 

According to a relative, the day he took the victim to the bank and they found out what was going on, Barnhart moved out, leaving personal property behind. The police report states she did not call or notify them she was leaving, making it appear as if she left the home because the family found about the checks. 

Barnhart also never contacted the family to regain any of her personal property or to get paid for her last month at work.  

The victim said she never paid Barnhart with a check, she only paid Barnhart $500 in cash each month, plus room and board for her services. 

According to the police report, when the victim and relative went to the bank back in January, they checked her account and found no money was left. Officers later learned that Barnhart had an advertisement on where she had her fees and experience listed.  

After researching the site, officers found information related to Barnhart that listed her pay as $3,510 per month. Officers then looked on Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulations website and could not locate any type of license in Barnhart's name. 

TPD and JCSO tried multiple times contacting Barnhart, but she wouldn't return any of their calls.  

According to Capital City Bank's report to JCSO, all of the checks were cashed in Tallahassee, but due to the time delay, there would be no video available. 

Based on the evidence provided, Barnhart is being charged with 15 counts of counterfeit payment instructions, 15 counts of uttering, 15 counts of grand theft of $300 or more but less than $5,000, and one count of use of personal identification information over $5,000 in theft.  

She was taken to the Leon County Detention Center and her bond has been set at $1,000.