DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — Investigators in Florida say they uncovered a massive fraud scheme thanks to a tip from the brother of a 99-year-old victim.
Deputies with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office arrested Sheena Russell, 45, on Wednesday on suspicion of grand theft, fraud and exploitation. Russell is accused of taking nearly $600,000 from a woman’s account to spend on extravagant vacations and bills.
The brother of the Destin elderly woman tipped off investigators after she moved into a senior living home. The brother lives out of state and became responsible for her financial accounts. He told sheriff’s deputies he noticed large money transfers to Russell over the last few years.
The department spoke with the victim and confirmed that she never allowed Russell to take any money from the accounts.
Russell is known to the family for helping the 99-year-old woman run errands after her husband died. Russell met the woman and her late husband while working as a waitress in Fort Walton Beach, officials said. Russell now works as a waitress in Destin.
Bank records pulled by the sheriff’s office show wire transfers to Russell’s account between March 30, 2020, and Sept. 22, 2021, for more than $582,647.
Investigators spoke with Russell’s attorney who claimed the victim and Russell had a joint business venture. The sheriff said the attorney’s office could not provide documents to prove a business relationship for the money transfers.
Investigators said Russell spent that money to pay off her mortgage, buy a car, fund trips to Walt Disney World; Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas; Washington, D.C.; and to go skiing in Utah.
The victim’s brother told the sheriff’s office that he believes Russell tried to keep the woman away from family members to hide the scheme.
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Russell has been released from the Okaloosa County Jail on a $60,000 bond. The sheriff’s department said Russell declined to give a formal statement to investigators and has since fired her attorney.