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DIGGING DEEPER: Police suspect inside job in $190K fraud of elderly victim

TUCSON – There were nearly 11,000 cases involving vulnerable adults in Arizona reported to the Department of Economic Security.

Twenty-two percent of those cases had to do with financial exploitation.

Tucson Police Department detectives are currently investigating a case of financial abuse of an elderly man who suffered from dementia.

The Digging Deeper Team uncovered a search warrant that revealed some disturbing information about the case.

According to Tucson Police, 84-year-old Robert Ouellette was allegedly taken advantage of by an employee who worked at a local credit union.

News 4 Tucson is not naming that person because they have not been formally charged with a crime.

However, the search warrant stated Tucson Police was investigating the crimes of theft, fraud schemes, computer tampering and forgery.

Ouellette lived alone in the Campbell Estates Mobile Home community for 20 years, but died four months ago from injuries he received in a car accident.

Fred Thorpe was the victim’s friend and neighbor.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Thorpe. “I mean the guy was such a nice fellow, probably why they took advantage of him.”

According to the court document, the crimes were believed to have been committed around February 2018 to July 2019.

The search warrant also stated that the suspect was employed at a credit union and was responsible for assisting customers with financial transactions.

The warrant goes on to say the employee took advantage of his position and conducted fraudulent transactions and theft from Robert Ouellette.

The employee allegedly stole from Ouellette’s accounts at the credit union and other bank accounts.

The theft is estimated at $190,000.

Ouellette was a devout Catholic who attended mass at Sacred Heart every morning.

Friends and family of Oullette said he lived a simple life and spent money on necessities and charity donations.

The Digging Deeper Team contacted his niece, Mary Peters, in Michigan.

“He was really a cheerful man, he was always good-hearted and in good spirits,” said Peters as she remembered her Uncle Bob.

Peters is also the executor of Ouellette’s estate.

Peters said family members started noticing changes in 2017.

“I started getting calls from the trailer court where he lived he wasn’t paying his rent. That’s not Uncle Bob,” Peters recalled to News 4 Tucson.

Ouellette was formally diagnosed with dementia in April.

The search warrant stated that Adult Protective Services began an investigation last March.

Records were also subpoenaed from Ouellette’s bank.

It showed transactions to online retailers, utility and cell phone, and the suspect’s credit card account.

Investigators say those transactions were out of character for the elderly victim.

When Peters learned her uncle was missing nearly $200,000 from his account and that the money ended up in the suspect’s accounts, she was shocked.

“They should go to jail. Do not pass Go,” Peters told News 4 Tucson.

News 4 Tucson made repeated requests to TPD to comment about their investigation.

The department repeatedly declined and said it was an ongoing investigation.

To file a report with Arizona Adult Protective Services call 1-877-SOS-ADULT (1-877-767-2385) or a report online can be made here.


Paul Birmingham

Paul Birmingham is an Investigative Producer for KVOA News 4 Tucson. He is a three time Edward R. Murrow award winner, native Tucsonan, and a proud Arizona Wildcat.

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