A man stole $84,000 from his mother-in-law with Parkinson’s disease and spent nearly half the money on an “arsenal” of guns in New Hampshire, federal prosecutors said.
He said he spent $30,000 on 32 firearms because he believed “the country was falling apart,” court documents show.
The man, 51, of East Rochester, New Hampshire, also left his 79-year-old in-law with nearly $20,000 in credit card debt, prosecutors said.
He didn’t stop until the credit card went over its limit and he had no money left, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of New Hampshire.
The man was sentenced to a year in federal prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud, the attorney’s office announced in an April 13 news release.
US Attorney Jane E. Young in a statement describing the man’s actions as “particularly insidious.”
The man had argued against a prison sentence and asked the court to instead sentence him to three years of probation and order him to pay restitution — citing his lack of a criminal background and years of military service in the US Marine Corps, which led to PTSD , fatigue, and other physical and mental health conditions, according to his sentencing memo.
He said in the memo that post-traumatic stress disorder caused his “(hoarding) behavior” and was the reason for the many “unneeded” purchases made using his mother-in-law’s credit card.
“While we are disappointed with the outcome in this case, we respect the judge’s decision,” his attorney, Jim Reis, of Reis & O’Keefe PLLC law firm, told the McClatchy News in a statement on April 14.
He said his client’s “maladaptive behaviors in this case were directly related to his mental health struggles” and he’s “taken responsibility for his actions.”
As part of his sentencing, he was ordered to pay his mother-in-law nearly $84,000 in restitution, prosecutors said. He’s already paid this amount back, Reis said.
How the case unfolded
The case dates to March 2019, when the man began stealing his mother-in-law’s money by using her debit card and two credit cards until late 2021, prosecutors said.
His mother-in-law couldn’t take care of herself, had memory problems and was unable to handle online banking or shopping on her own, according to the government’s sentencing memo.
The man was “trusted” with helping set up her online bank account and knew her password and personal information, including her Social Security number, prosecutors said.
He used his mother-in-law’s credit card to make purchases at Target, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Etsy and more, the sentencing memo says.
He bought items the woman couldn’t use herself given her physical state, such as a leaf blower, according to the sentencing memo.
Thousands spent at a gun shop
He also spent over $31,000 at the Coyote Creek gun shop in Rochester, according to the sentencing memo. This includes money spent on guns, ammunition, a knife-throwing set and gun “paraphernalia,” the sentencing memo says.
Although he returned 29 weapons, his mother-in-law didn’t receive refunds herself, according to a sentencing memo.
While explaining his motives behind buying firearms, he referred to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack of the US Capitol as a major motivation, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors wrote in the memo the event “neither explains nor excuses” the man’s fraud, which began roughly two years before the Capitol attack.
Prosecutors said the man mostly focused on his PTSD diagnosis related to his military service in arguing for a lesser sentence but wrote this isn’t a valid reason for fraud, according to the sentencing memo.
“There are hundreds of thousands of other Americans like the defendant who honorably served in their country and suffer from PTSD,” the prosecutors wrote. “The defendant’s attempt to use PTSD as an excuse for his crime is a grave disservice to the many law-abiding veterans who also suffer from PTSD.”
Prosecutors acknowledged it was “admirable” that the man took out loans to pay his mother-in-law back in restitution, according to the sentencing memo.
In a letter written to the judge ahead of the man’s sentencing, his wife described him as her best friend and “a good man” who helped her mother at her own request.
She said though they both don’t condone his actions, she asked the judge for compassion.
The Rochester Police Department and the FBI investigated the case, prosecutors said.
Rochester is in southeastern New Hampshire, along the border with Maine.
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