Caregiver stole $40,000 in rings off dementia patients’ fingers as they slept, Tacoma police say

By Kenny Ocker

June 26, 2018

A caregiver at a Tacoma nursing home for memory loss patients stole more than $40,000 in rings from residents’ fingers as they slept, Pierce County prosecutors allege.

The 34-year-old was charged Monday in Superior Court with three counts of first-degree theft from a vulnerable adult, four counts of second-degree theft and two counts of first-degree trafficking in stolen property. Arraignment is set for July 9.

According to charging documents:

Employees at the memory care center in the 6000 block of North Highlands Parkway began to receive complaints last year from family members that patients were missing rings from their fingers while they were asleep. The victims all had dementia, so they could not say what happened.

The manager of the care facility contacted Tacoma police Nov. 8 and passed along the results of an internal investigation.

A day before, three residents were missing rings — one missing three worth $9,000, another missing a diamond ring worth $12,000 and one missing a diamond ring worth $14,000.

On three days in late October, three other patients’ rings — worth about $4,500 — were reported missing.

The manager suspected an employee was responsible because the residents lived in secured wings. Only one caregiver was working in the wings on each day the thefts were reported: the 34-year-old woman.

In one incident, a co-worker saw the woman emerge from a wing in which she didn’t work and a ring was reported missing immediately. The woman then went to a bench in the hallway and said she found the ring there, returning it that night.

The woman started at the clinic Oct. 10, less than two weeks before the first theft was reported. She was fired Nov. 7, after the last three ring thefts were discovered. No ring thefts had been reported before she started, and none has been reported since she was fired.

A Tacoma police detective checked area pawn shops and found the woman did two transactions at the same shop, including one on the day she was fired. The owner said the woman came in and sold the jewelry to him, and provided receipts that included a copy of her driver’s license.

The detective cross-referenced the rings with the care facility’s records of each patient’s jewelry and was able to recover each of the ones referenced in the charging documents and return them to their owners.

He also found another patient’s ring that had not yet been reported missing, worth about $1,000, and returned it to its owner, as well.

A caregiver who had two rings worth $2,500 stolen from her purse during one of her shifts got her rings back from the pawn shop.

Other patients’ rings reported missing during the woman’s time at the care facility were not recovered. The detective tried to call the woman, but she did not return his messages.

The investigation is ongoing, and more charges might be filed, prosecutors note.