A local man faces up to 70 years in prison after being arraigned Monday on seven felony counts related to fraud against elderly people in his care while working in Rutland this year.
Mark Lacomb, 39, of Rutland, pleaded not guilty to six felony counts of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and one felony count of forging a check.
Lacomb was released without bail but ordered not to have contact with the people he’s accused of exploiting and not to work with vulnerable adults.
The charges were filed by the Vermont Attorney General’s Office. A press release from that office said Lacomb has been accused of defrauding five people of more than $13,000 during the course of a year.
The charges against Lacomb are based on an affidavit written by Detective Virginia Merriam, of the Medicaid Fraud and Residential Abuse Unit of the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.
Merriam said she spoke with Cheryl Thrall, executive director of Lincoln Street, on April 8. Lincoln Street works with older Vermonters and people with disabilities and is funded by Medicaid.
Thrall told Merriam she had gotten complaints about Lacomb, who had worked at the Vermont Comforts Of Home (VCOH) program in their Howe Street office in Rutland.
As a case manager, Lacomb oversaw the assistance provided to about 10 people.
The family of one of those clients reported in a letter dated March 22 to Lincoln Street that Lacomb had charged $800 to the client’s account through an Amazon account.
A second letter, dated April 7, said Lacomb had taken a client to a bank in Rutland and helped the client close out an account. The letter said Lacomb had told the client to endorse a check for about $9,400, which he told the client he would send to the client’s designated payee but the client said the check, dated March 1, never arrived.
On April 11, Merriam learned, according to the affidavit, the check had been deposited to a bank account maintained by Lacomb.
The affidavit said a third allegation was reported on April 8. Merriam said she learned that Lacomb had helped a third client move to Gill Odd Fellows Home, a nursing home in Ludlow. The client said Lacomb told her he was going to help her rent a storage unit and she gave him $272 because he allegedly told her she needed to pay cash.
However, staff at the nursing home told the client they had learned the charge for the storage unit, because the first month’s rental was waived and was actually $56.
Merriam said an interview was set up on April 11 to speak with the client in the Ludlow nursing home. When told the interview had been scheduled, the client said $2,100 in cash was missing from a safe in her room. Lacomb had been working part-time at the nursing home at the time the money went missing, the affidavit said.
The woman told an officer with the Ludlow Police Department that Lacomb was the only person beside herself who knew the combination to the safe. She said he also knew, from helping her move, that there was money in the safe.
Lacomb left that job at the end of March, the affidavit said.
The client said she had also given Lacomb a check for more than $500 to deposit for her but Merriam said the check appeared to have also been deposited in March into Lacomb’s account.
On April 12, Thrall told Merriam there was evidence of another unauthorized payment. She said Lacomb had requested a check for more than $900 on March 1 which was allegedly to pay for the arrears on a rental of a storage unit used by a fourth client.
When Merriam investigated the matter, she found the client had a storage unit but learned it was not in arrears when Lacomb made the request.
Lacomb spoke with investigators on April 29, according to the affidavit. He said what happened with the Amazon account was a mistake and that he had tried to make a repayment to Lincoln Street before they terminated his employment.
Asked about the second client and his signature on the check, Lacomb said he could not explain what happened, the affidavit said.
Lacomb said he had receipts for payments he had made for clients and promised to provide them.
“I will fix everything,” he said, according to the affidavit.
Merriam said no receipts had been provided as of the time her affidavit was written on May 10.
Merriam’s affidavit said she received a copy of Lacomb’s bank records on May 3. The records showed staff at Gills had issued a check to a client for about $750 on Feb. 14.
Lacomb had been responsible for helping the woman move from Gills to a different home in Brandon. The bank records indicated that Lacomb had deposited the money to his own account.
Each of the charges against Lacomb are punishable by up to 10 years in jail, if he is convicted.