SARASOTA, Fla. — A Sarasota caregiver has been arrested for stealing more than $1 million from her 94-year-old client.
- Anna Bullinger charged with felony elderly exploitation
- Investigators say thefts began in 2015
- More Manatee County stories
Sarasota County Sheriff's Office investigators said Anna Bullinger, 55, was first hired in 2015 to serve as a caretaker for the victim, Peggy Nardone.
However, Bullinger was never licensed as a caregiver, and according to investigators has a criminal history that includes petit theft and violation of probation.
Since 2015, Bullinger has been cashing checks every two weeks, all signed by Nardone. Altogether, she collected $1.1 million from Nardone's trust.
"[Nardone] actually was pretty up to date with her accounts and stuff, so she didn’t really let people see her accounts," said Detective Carlos Verdoni.
That diligence with the accounts is how Bullinger was able to get away with it for so long. However, red flags went up when she cashed a check for an unusually high amount from Nardone the day after Nardone's death.
"She wrote it for $90,000, which is kind of concerning," Verdoni explained. "It was written as a gift and she placed it in her daughter's bank account."
Until her death, Nardone wrote checks and signed them herself to pay her own bills. Detectives still are uncertain as to how Bullinger got Nardone to sign all the checks.
They also called the case unusual, despite how common elder exploitation is in Florida.
An attorney we spoke to, Sean Byrne of Bach, Jacobs and Byrne Elder Law, said there are things citizens can do if they believe someone is taking advantage of their loved ones.
"There’s a DCF hotline — if you call that hotline someone, an investigator from DCF, will go and investigate and see if there’s a high risk factor of exploitation," Byrne explained. "And if so it’ll be referred to law enforcement and then law enforcement will investigate that."
"These people have worked all their lives. They've had their money saved up and suddenly it's gone," Verdoni added.
Bullinger was charged with a single count of felony elder exploitation. She was released from jail on a $50,000 bond.