Superior Court Affirms Ruling Against Clarion County Man Found Guilty of Stealing $250K from 88-Year-Old Aunt

patton-CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has affirmed the Nov. 6, 2012, conviction of a Knox man for the theft of over $250,000.00 from his 88-year old aunt.

David Lynn Patton, of Knox, was found guilty in Clarion Court of Common Pleas on a total of 95 counts of Theft by Unlawful Taking and Failure to Make Required Disposition in connection with the theft of over $250,000.00 from Betty Wetzel between January 2007 and May 2012.

Patton was sentenced to an aggregate term of 30 to 60 months. He was out on bail for his appeal.

The ruling on the appeal was filed on September 19. Click here for the complete ruling.

Judges Gantman, Elliot, and Olson rejected the appeal and stated that the Power of Attorney between Patton and Wetzel was not a license to steal.

“Simply stated, we reject Appellant’s bold claim that the “unlimited gift” provision in the power of attorney provided Appellant with a license to steal Ms. Wetzel’s assets and use all of her money for Appellant’s own benefit. To the contrary, the gifting power was clearly subject to the condition that Appellant use the power ‘for [Ms. Wetzel’s] benefit’ – and Appellant clearly violated this condition when he took all of Ms. Wetzel’s money and used it as if it was his own,” stated the Court.

The investigation was initiated in March 2010 when Wetzel, who lived at Clarview Nursing Home, contacted the Clarion Area Agency on Aging after she was told that her account with the assisted living facility was overdue. She has passed away since Patton was found guilty.

After an initial investigation, Toni Reott Forsythe, of the Clarion Area Agency on Aging, and Pennsylvania State Police Trooper William Craddock looked further into the matter. Investigators determined that Patton, who was appointed as his aunt’s power of attorney, cashed in his aunt’s investment accounts and a life insurance policy and deposited the money into her checking accounts. Patton unlawfully cashed several checks written out to him and also wrote several checks out to businesses.

Clarion County Assistant District Attorney Drew Welsh prosecuted the original case and represented the Commonwealth in the appeal.

Additional details of the theft were also included in the work of a forensic accountant provided through the Pennsylvania Department of Aging in the Court opinion.

“…The Commonwealth introduced (and Appellant stipulated to) the following evidence: 1) the Commonwealth’s proposed expert witness, Linda S. Mill, is “qualified as an expert in the field of accounting and fraud examination;” 2) Ms. Mill’s expert report is admitted in its entirety; 3) if called to testify, Ms. Mill would testify consistently with her expert report, wherein Ms. Mills concluded that Appellant removed ‘$282,905.55 in funds from Ms. Wetzel’s accounts . . . without any authorization by or apparent benefit to Ms. Wetzel,’ that Appellant misappropriated all of those funds, that Appellant deposited only $5,761.35 in Ms. Wetzel’s accounts, that Appellant caused Ms. Wetzel a net loss of $277,144.20, and that Appellant used the $277,144.20 for Appellant’s own benefit…”

“We have reviewed the briefs of the parties, the relevant law, the certified record, and the well-written opinions of the able trial judge, the Honorable James G. Arner,” wrote the Court. “We conclude that there has been no error in this case and that the trial court’s opinions, filed on July 6, 2011, September 18, 2012, and February 13, 2013, meticulously and accurately dispose of Appellant’s claims on appeal. Therefore, we affirm on the basis of the trial court’s opinions and adopt them as our own.”

According to court documents, Patton remained out on bail; however, on September 22, 2014, Clarion County District Attorney Aaron issued a “Motion to Revoke Bail.”

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