Attorney General Laxalt Announces Third Elder Exploitation Guardianship Abuse Prosecution

January 9, 2017

Carson City, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt announced that Yohannes Habtemicael, 27, of Washoe County, was arrested on one count of exploitation of an older person, one count of theft and one count of embezzlement of an older person, all category “B” felonies. The alleged crimes were committed between August 2014 and November 2015.

    According to the criminal complaint, Yohannes Habtemicael was appointed as the permanent guardian of his 67-year-old father Tewolde Habtemicael and his estate, after it was determined that he 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 allegedly subsequently converted more than $80,000 of his father’s funds for his own personal use.

      “Many of our senior citizens who are alone and isolated become dependent on one or two individuals to care for their wellbeing,” said Laxalt. “I consider the financial and personal security of our vulnerable elderly to be a priority for this office.”

        The State of Nevada v. Habtemicael criminal complaint represents the third guardianship exploitation criminally charged by the Office of the Nevada Attorney General. Other convictions include the State of Nevada v. Wendy Rudder where the defendant in that case, providing public guardian services pursuant to a contract with Lincoln County, pleaded guilty to one count of misconduct of a public officer related to unauthorized withdrawals from a ward’s guardianship account. Defendant Rudder was sentenced in the spring of 2015. The defendant in State of Nevada v. Fordin was appointed the permanent guardian of his 80-year-old mother and her estate, and converted her funds for his own personal use.

          Laxalt continued, “I will continue to work collaboratively with local law enforcement and district attorneys to protect the rights of our elderly and ensure they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

            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 awarded to 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. 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.

              A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

                This case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Ronda Clifton. The filed criminal complaint for Yohannes Habtemicael is attached.