A Rockville man who’d held himself out as a caregiver was sentenced to seven years in prison Thursday for stealing more than $11,000 from a 95-year-old, wheelchair-dependent neighbor who suffered from dementia and was living amid filth in her home.
“She didn’t have anyone to turn to. And here you were saying, ‘Oh, I am going to help you. I’m going to be there,’ ” Montgomery County Circuit Judge Marielsa A. Bernard told Jose Bacon, 59. “You took advantage of her. You manipulated her.”
Bacon defrauded the victim — a retired lawyer who lived alone in Rockville — by forging checks on her account, withdrawing cash and misusing credit and check cards, according to court records. As Bacon took those funds, the judge said, he did nothing to keep her home clean.
“You didn’t do squat,” Bernard said, calling the conditions reprehensible. “There were mites and cockroaches running across the sheets. There was trash everywhere. There were buckets of soiled diapers.”
With a seven-year sentence, Bacon will be sent to state prison. Bernard denied a request from Bacon’s attorney to allow him some time — even the weekend — before reporting for his sentence. She called Bacon “a threat to the community.”
In documents filed ahead of Thursday’s hearing, prosecutors had sought a prison term of at least nine years, saying that such a duration would deter others from what has become a frequent crime — financial exploitation of old people.
Many victims are too embarrassed or confused to alert others, making the crime “drastically under-reported,” Assistant Montgomery County State’s Attorney Jessica Hall said in court documents. The victim in the case had never been married or had children.
“The psychological impact of this theft has been significant,” Hall wrote. “She is a proud and independent woman who was made to feel weak, helpless and vulnerable when she realized that this close ‘friend’ of hers had stolen her money.”
The case against Bacon — who had three earlier convictions for cocaine possession — began several years ago, when a landscaper who worked for the Rockville woman felt uneasy about the amount of time Bacon was spending with the woman. The landscaper contacted another customer, who visited the woman.
“All the windows in the residence were covered, allowing no natural light,” detectives later wrote in court papers. “The home is so cluttered that only one room was usable.”
Adult social workers were called but were kept out of the house — either by Bacon or the woman, detectives alleged.
The friend of the gardener’s, whom the woman allowed in, visited again, found the woman slumped in her wheelchair and called paramedics.
At Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, the victim was treated for general neglect, poor nutrition, dehydration and skin conditions. Her condition “dramatically improved,” detectives wrote.
She was discharged to an assisted-care facility, and social workers were granted guardianship over her and her finances, according to court records.
The police investigation revealed that in 2012, Bacon cashed a series of checks from the victim’s Bank of America account without her knowledge.
Bacon was tried in front of Bernard, not a jury. The victim testified and said that Bacon changed her diapers, cooked for her, swept for her and paid her utilities. But those beliefs, according to prosecutors, stood in stark contrast to conditions in her home.
“The essence of the exploitation in this case,” prosecutors wrote, “was that Jose Bacon was a trusted and relied-upon presence in [the victim’s] life, and he exploited that position of trust to manipulate her generosity, deceive her as to his intentions, and isolate her from other people who could identify and stop the financial exploitation.”