SALT LAKE CITY — Two people face criminal charges and more arrests are expected in an extreme case of elder exploitation in southern Utah.
Prosecutors believe a group of people, led by a man already on parole, exploited an 80-year-old St. George woman out of more than a quarter of a million dollars.
Faye Ann Renteria, 41, of St. George, was charged Thursday in 5th District Court with 10 counts of exploitation of a vulnerable adult, nine second-degree felonies and one third-degree felony.
Terrence Quincey Powell, 23, also of St. George, was charged with seven counts of exploitation of a vulnerable adult, one second-degree felony and six third-degree felonies.
On Tuesday, investigators learned that several men were taking advantage of an 80-year-old woman, according to a police affidavit filed in 5th District Court.
“I learned that the elderly woman had written checks and given these male suspects thousands of dollars in checks and currency,” the investigating officer who works for Adult Probation and Parole wrote in the affidavit.
The woman’s family told police she is “not all mentally cognizant, as she has trouble remembering things, following simple conversation topics, counting, etc.,” the affidavit states.
The family was concerned about one man in particular, a man who is married “but was supposedly engaged to the elderly 80-year-old woman,” according to the affidavit.
Investigators only referred to that man as “the parolee” in court documents.
The woman had reportedly signed the family’s cabin over to this man and given him large amounts of money totaling $150,000 in three payments, the affidavit states, as well as other smaller payments. The woman’s family discovered these transactions while helping her with her bank statements.
The victim met the parolee in March after police say he knocked on her door and told her he believed her home needed repairs and he was willing to do it for a fee.
“The elderly woman hired the parolee to repaint the stucco around her home, paint the window trimmings, resurface the driveway, miscellaneous yard work, etc. The parolee brought over several of his workers, one of which included Terrance Powell, to assist him,” the affidavit states.
As Powell and others were allegedly working, police say the parolee would talk to the woman and convince her to pay for the services upfront.
“When I interviewed the elderly woman, I took a look at the home and noted that these odd jobs were never completed, and the quality of work was extremely poor. Any reasonable person can see that these jobs will need to be redone” at a cost of “several thousand dollars,” according to the affidavit. ”None of the work is finished, and appears to have caused more damage to her home.”
Powell is accused of continuing to go with the parolee to the woman’s house to perform small jobs.
“For these jobs however, he was paid several thousand dollars at a time for performing meaningless jobs around the house that shouldn’t cost more than $100 in total,” the officer wrote.
Powell ended up collecting a total of $13,500 from the woman “for work that he should have been paid less than $100,” the affidavit says.
When Powell was arrested, a family member told police that “it was the idea of the parolee and another male suspect who is at large at this time. However, being that the checks were written in Terrance Powell’s name, it shows that he is just as culpable for taking advantage of her,” according to the affidavit.
After Powell was arrested, agents from Adult Probation and Parole “went to attempt to locate the parolee to arrest him,” a second report states.
Investigators went to a residence in Iron County, but “the parolee fled in a vehicle with three other suspects involved in this scheme. Agents only observed them fleeing, and were too far behind to attempt to stop them,” the report states.
Iron County sheriff’s deputies spotted several of the vehicles and were able to stop one driven by Renteria. She was carrying $12,000 at the time of her arrest, according to the report.
Another man, whose name was not released, was later captured, but “the parolee and a second suspect are still at large at this time,” according to Thursday's affidavit.
When interviewed by police, Renteria said she is the fiancee of the main parolee suspect police were looking for. Investigators noted that she was “living off” the elderly woman and making “extravagant purchases from the very funds that were taken via deception from the elderly woman.”
“Together she and the parolee purchased an $82,000 GMC Sierra truck, which was the same one she was driving when she was arrested. She also admitted that the $12,000 on her person she received from the parolee who got it from the elderly woman the day prior. Faye also admitted to purchasing a 2018 Chevy Camaro, and a side by side RZR,” the affidavit states.
Investigators believe Renteria and the parolee received at least $264,500 from the St. George woman and said additional charges are forthcoming.