Jacqueline Watts, of East Palo Alto, in custody for allegedly scamming her 92-year-old grandmother out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, will be in court today to face charges of financial abuse of the elderly, a type of case that is common in the relatively affluent San Mateo County.
Whether the abuse is assault, isolation, abandonment, neglect or financial, about eight out of nine cases of elder abuse go unreported statewide, said Lisa Mancini, director of the county’s Aging and Adult Services. She said a rise in financial abuse has distinguished San Mateo County from other regions.
“There’s been a slight increase, especially in our county, where there is a high cost of living and we have a lot of seniors who are property-rich but cash-poor,” she said.
There is an average of 83 cases of elder abuse or neglect every month in the county. In February there were 90 cases, 61 of which perpetuated by a relative or caregiver, according to the county’s Adult Protective Services.
Watts, 42, who shares an East Palo Alto home with her grandmother, was arrested April 1, 2005, after driving her grandmother to Stanford Hospital. Watts claimed her grandmother was sexually assaulted. After an examination, doctors ruled out sexual assault but found bedsores all over her body. She was dehydrated and malnourished.
Watts is in custody on $2.5 million bail. Today, a court may decide whether Watts is competent to stand trial due to her mental problems.
“She took out mortgages — there were three mortgages, but we are prosecuting on a specific $400,000 loan,” Deputy District Attorney Melissa McKowan said.
Even while incarcerated, McKowan said, Watts continued to target her grandmother.
“She refinanced the property while in jail, twice,” she said. “We’ve never seen anything like it before, and she did it twice.”
Attorney Savas Loukedis, a public defender who is representing Watts, did not return calls Monday.