TULSA -- Prosecutors have accused a former Department of Human Services employee of taking money from an elderly nursing home resident. Debra Maxine Roberts was charged Monday with financially exploiting vulnerable adults for allegedly taking nearly $4,500 in funds belonging to James True, 84. Roberts, then a DHS adult protective services specialist, was a temporary guardian for True after a court determined that he lacked the mental capacity to consent to necessary protective services, a court document states. In her guardian's capacity, Roberts had the authority to use True's finances to pay for his residential care and daily living expenses, according to an investigator's affidavit. True, listed as a resident at the Frances Streitel Villa in Collinsville, told investigators in October that Roberts "had never given him any cash money" and had "never bought him anything except ice cream," an affidavit states. True "advised he has never given her any money." Roberts, who began working for DHS in August 2004, was suspended from her duties in June, a document states. She was discharged from the agency after an internal investigation that resulted in some procedural changes, according to Lauri Hanna, DHS' communications manager. In another case, Roberts, 50, was charged in September with financially exploiting Claude Spencer by converting about $5,900 of his money to her own use. Spencer is identified by prosecutors as a 74-year-old mentally disabled Sand Springs man. Roberts became a temporary guardian for Spencer, a resident of Oak Dale Manor, in 2007, according to court documents. At the time, she had the authority to use his money to pay for his residential care and daily expenses. Records from a credit union and a bank show that Roberts made cash withdrawals from Spencer's accounts after her guardianship ended, an affidavit states. In that case, Roberts was arrested Sept. 24 and released from jail on $50,000 bond. She awaits a Dec. 30 preliminary hearing. Roberts, of Chelsea, also is a defendant in a Tulsa County lawsuit filed in September on behalf of the estate of evangelist Martha "Vicki" Peterson, who died in January at 71. The lawsuit alleges that Peterson's financial assets were depleted during a guardianship. DHS, which had been Peterson's guardian, and Judith Upjohn, in whose home Peterson lived, also are defendants. The agency and Upjohn have denied allegations of negligence and of conspiring to defraud Peterson. Roberts filed a response asserting that she used "the highest degree of good faith and fair dealing toward Vicki Peterson and her property," as approved by a court. ___ Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.
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