March 28, 2017
Carson City, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt announced that Yohannes Habtemicael, 27, of Reno, pleaded guilty to exploitation of an older person, a category “B” felony, for converting funds entrusted to him as his father’s guardian for personal use. The fraudulent acts were committed between August 2014 and November 2015.
In 2014, Yohannes Habtemicael was appointed as the permanent guardian of his 67-year-old father Tewolde Habtemicael and his estate, after it was determined that Tewolde Habtemicael was unable to care for himself. As a guardian, Yohannes Habtemicael was entrusted with funds for the limited purpose of providing for his father’s care. However, he subsequently converted more than $88,000 of his father’s funds for his own personal use.
“On the heels of a major guardianship indictment in southern Nevada, my office obtained a felony plea in this northern Nevada case,” said Laxalt. “Instances of financial exploitation often involve trusted persons in the life of a vulnerable adult, and this plea is the result of diligent work being conducted by attorneys and investigators within our Financial Fraud Unit dedicated to combating a State and national increase in financial fraud complaints.”
Exploitation of an older person is punishable by up to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of no more than $25,000. The sentencing hearing for Habtemicael is scheduled for June 1, in the Second Judicial Court.
In July, 2016, the Nevada Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee unanimously approved AG Laxalt’s request to combat increasing financial fraud within the State using non-taxpayer settlement funds obtained by his office. AG Laxalt’s request included the allocation of more than $400,000 of non-taxpayer settlement funds to the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada in order to boost their capacity to fight civil guardianship exploitation and abuse. In the attorney general’s new budget, the office is seeking authorization to fund Washoe Legal Services for the same purpose. Although the Office of the Nevada Attorney General does not have primary jurisdiction over guardianship matters, the Office will continue to take cases from District Attorney Offices who either refer or decline prosecution.
This case was investigated by the Office of the Nevada Attorney General’s Financial Fraud Unit, and was prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Rhonda Clifton.
The criminal information for Yohannes Habtemicael is attached. If you or someone you know has information regarding a suspected instance of fraud, you may file a complaint with our office here.
(Photo courtesy of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office)