Cook County Public Guardian Wants Charges In Case Of Swindled Nursing Home Resident

Bernie Tafoya
June 26, 2019 - 1:40 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Cook County Public Guard was in court Wednesday morning spelling out how current and former staffers of a senior citizens’ home pleaded the 5th when asked under oath about the theft of the bulk of a resident’s life savings. 

Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert said 98-year old Grace Watanabe had more than $770,000 stolen from her when she lived in the Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park and that five former employees of Symphony had a similar answer when asked pointed questions about their roles in the alleged swindle.

"Questions like, when you took $100,000 from Mrs. Watanabe, did you know that she had advanced dementia? Answer. I cannot answer that question because the answer will incriminate me. 5th amendment," he said.

Public Guardian Charles Golbert said a Chicago Police financial crimes police detective laid out evidence for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office months ago, but so far, no charges.

Golbert wrote a letter to State's Attorney Kim Foxx in May saying he believes charges should be filed in the case.

Meanwhile, Golbert said it wasn’t just the former staffers answering deposition questions with the 5th amendment.

"We do not allege that the executive director stole any money herself, but we deposed her about what was going on there. We asked her questions such as, along the lines, 'were you aware that your employees were stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a 97-year-old resident with dementia?' Answer: 5th amendment. The answer will incriminate me," he said.

Golbert said he had Watanabe moved to a safe nursing home 10 months ago when the case was referred to him. He said she's 98-years old now, is doing well, and that, despite her dementia, has a broad understanding that most of her money was stolen from her.

Golbert said Watanabe spent time in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, eventually got a college degree and worked for the federal government.

He said dozens of members of Chicago's Japanese-American community have been closely following the case and have appeared at every single court date in support of Grace Watanabe.

Her last surviving relative, a brother, died in 2009.