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Grandson charged with spending grandma's life savings

9:29 PM, May 19, 2011   |    comments
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Court records show he refinanced the homes and walked away with $100,000 in equity while the four homes fell into foreclosure, the Mercedes was repossessed and his grandma's life savings disappeared.

"It just breaks my heart to think that my grandson would do this to me," said Mary, who didn't want 9Wants to Know to use her last name because she's embarrassed. "It's shameful to me to think that I fell for it, allowed this to happen to me and I'd rather people didn't know."

McGhee, 38, has been charged in the 18th Judicial District with theft, defrauding a creditor, identity theft, crimes against at-risk adults, forgery, issuing a false financial statement and obtaining signature by deception.

Ask McGhee about it and he'll swear he did nothing wrong.

"I've been completely thrown under the bus with this whole deal. All of this at-risk stuff is unbelievable crap," McGhee said in a phone-call with Investigative Reporter Deborah Sherman from his home in Texas. "Do me a favor, don't call me again.... Nobody needs to be running any story. Tread lightly, Deborah."

In court records, McGhee claims his grandmother knew all about the loans and the refinancing.

Documents show otherwise. While Mary says McGhee told her she was co-signing on the homes and the Mercedes, records show McGhee made her the sole owner of everything.

"They came to me and asked me if I'd co-sign for a car," Mary said. "I never owned the car."

However, purchase records from the dealership show Mary is the only owner of the Mercedes. Even though she never drove it or saw it, she paid about $18,000 toward the cost of the $33,417 Mercedes before she couldn't make the payments anymore. The Mercedes was repossessed. Mary doesn't know what became of the Hummer.

In an arrest affidavit, McGhee admits to a police officer he lied on bank loan applications about Mary's income and job title to secure home loans from banks. While Mary only receives about $28,000 a year from Social Security benefits, a U.S. Postal pension and annuities, the arrest affidavit shows at times, McGhee claimed she had hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank.

When Mary questioned her grandson about it, McGhee emailed, "This really makes me sad for you and our relationship. You are old and don't have a lot of time left and this doesn't help at all....Yes, your credit will be screwed up for a year but what do you need to buy?"

Mary replied, "Talking with you always gets me nowhere as I let you convince me of anything."

Mary says she lives paycheck to paycheck today, with no money left over for food. She also faces losing her home, which is in foreclosure along with the three others McGhee bought for her.

An attorney is working with Mary pro-bono to try to recapture some of the money she lost.

"Her grandson took advantage of her, took all the money she had," attorney Marc Schtul said. "This is the time of life she's supposed to be enjoying. She worked for a long time to have a pension and create savings and it's all gone. Every bit of it's gone."

The Colorado Division of Real Estate forced McGhee to surrender his real estate license last year, after an investigation found him guilty of making false promises to multiple renters. According to an investigative report in 2008, McGhee engaged in "a scheme to defraud renters and other participants in the Turn Key Investments, lease to own program."

"The fact that he did it to his grandmother is just outrageous, but he did it other people too," Schtul said.

Mary is part of a growing number of seniors across Colorado who have been abused, neglected or financially exploited, according to Colorado Adult Protective Services. In the last five years, records show complaints have increased 16-percent.

Family members account for 75 percent of all perpetrators of adult abuse, statistics show.

"It's heart-breaking when a family member is doing that to you. It's frightening," Douglas County Adult and Aging Services Manager Valerie Robson said. "They're probably afraid if they make waves, the person won't care for them anymore. They might end up in a nursing home where they don't want to be."

Robson says people know that they can take advantage of old people because they are often afraid to speak up and won't complain even when they know something is wrong.

"Because of the family connection or because they feel pressured or coerced, some of that decision making, even though it's still there, goes out the window. Because they don't want to believe that my grandson, my granddaughter, my son would really do this to me," Robson said.

Adult protective services encourages you to call your county department of social human services if you suspect that a senior is being taken advantage of. The call can be anonymous. The department will conduct an investigation. For more information, visit http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDHS-SelfSuff/CBON/1251582068463.

"This is such an unreported problem that probably the real incidents of elder abuse and financial fraud is much higher than we think it is," Robson said.

Adult protective services workers also encourages families to make financial plans and decisions early on so they don't have to deal with those issues as senior citizens.

If you have any news tips, please email Investigative Reporter Deborah Sherman at Deborah.Sherman@9NEWS.com.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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