Vann sentenced to four years for theft; Caregiver confessed to

Vann sentenced to four years for theft; Caregiver confessed to

Kevin Taylor Staff writer

A former manager of an assisted living center in Coeur d’Alene was sentenced Monday morning to more than four years in prison – but with the possibility of probation by January – after confessing in recent months to stealing thousands of dollars from two elderly residents under her care.

First District Court Judge Fred Gibler sentenced Mary Jane Vann, 56, on two felony counts of grand theft after Vann, under suspicion for more than a year, confessed in recent months to stealing $30,000 in jewelry from one resident at Fairwinds Retirement Community and stealing $3,000 in cash from another resident.

Vann has paid $30,000 to Mary Honeyman for two rings she stole from the blind woman. She was ordered to pay $3,000 to Lucille Huber, her second victim. Both women have since moved elsewhere.

Gibler ordered Vann to serve at least 18 months of her sentence before becoming eligible for parole, but he agreed with the terms of a plea agreement that she could start her sentence with six months in a prison boot camp program to see if she qualified for probation at the end of that time.

The sentencing did little to address the outrage felt by people who think they or their families have been hurt by Vann.

“This is not even close to what she owes here,” said an angry Kathy Kolts, an attorney representing Huber in a separate lawsuit against Vann. The lawsuit alleges that Vann overmedicated Huber to manipulate the elderly woman into signing over her power of attorney to Vann, thus allowing the former Fairwinds manager access to Huber’s finances.

Kolts and others were angry that Vann has only been charged with two counts of theft, and that those counts came from Vann’s own confessions – confessions that appeared to catch police and prosecutors off guard.

Vann’s attorney, Glen Walker, told Gibler that Vann wouldn’t be in court if it had not been for her confessions.

Kootenai County deputy prosecutor Marty Raap was cornered in the hallway by other people who say they have been victimized by Vann, including Bonnie Ford, of Missoula.

“Why did she have to confess for justice to be done?” Ford asked Raap. “Why hasn’t she been investigated thoroughly? Why have others had to do the work for the state of Idaho?”

“I understand why people feel aggrieved,” Raap told the Montana woman. “Technically, there are only two named victims.”

Ford and others said they do not feel police or prosecutors have aggressively protected elderly retirement home residents from being victimized by thieves and con artists.

They were also angry that Bob Westermann, executive vice president of Leisure Care, the Bellevue, Wash.-based parent company of Fairwinds, appeared in court with a busload of Fairwinds residents who expressed their support for Vann.

Vann was fired in early June 2003 when the Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licensing filed a complaint against her for not being licensed to manage an assisted-living facility.

“I want to apologize for Mary Jane Vann and the misdeeds she perpetrated on our families,” Westermann said. “I am deeply disturbed by the level of deceit she confronted us with as we tried to get to the truth.”

Westermann was pulled away in the chaos of the hallway – where Vann supporters and detractors milled about – before he could finish answering questions about any changes in hiring or internal oversight at Fairwinds.

A second Fairwinds worker, Mary Ward, has been charged with grand theft after Vann named her as an accomplice during a taped confession to Coeur d’Alene Police detective Tracy Martin in late June. A third Fairwinds employee and a local attorney, both named by Vann as taking part in the power of attorney switch, have not been charged.

Raap said charges of defrauding the elderly can be hard to prove and, even though Monday’s sentencing was driven more by confession and less by investigation, “I am happy to be standing here today. She has already paid $30,000 in restitution to one victim. She will serve prison time.

“There is no doubt this is a heinous crime,” Raap said, “particularly since it was the administrator of the facility who did it and not just the guy cleaning the room. But I think a message has been sent. It would not have helped anybody if I filed a half-baked charge …” that would have been tossed from court, he said.

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Kevin Taylor can be reached at (208) 765-7124 or by e-mail at kevint@spokesman.com.

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