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Worried neighbor discovers financial fraud

On June 24, 2013, Cody Giusto, 27, of Sandy stepped beyond purely the duties of his job. He decided to act as a neighbor and a friend to find answers.

Giusto, a Farmers Insurance agent, recently had been notified that 79-year-old Viola Wharton, his client for four years and neighbor for 20 years, had not paid her home insurance, and her policy had been canceled.

In making many attempt to contact Wharton, Giusto consistently dealt with Jacki Lynn Newman, 47, who was unemployed and had been living with Wharton, her ex-mother-in-law, for approximately six months. Giusto thought it was weird and began to suspect something was wrong.

On that summer day six months ago, Giusto went with his gut feeling and decided to act.

“My mom had said she had seen Vi up and around the house, so I decided to go over,” Giusto said.

At this visit to Wharton’s home, when greeted once again by Newman with a brush-off, Giusto walked around Newman into the house to finally speak to Wharton.

Wharton had no idea that her policy had been canceled and entrusted a voided check to Giusto so he could draft her account for the missed payments.

Half an hour later, Wharton was informed that her bank account had been almost completely drained.

In April, Wharton’s car, which also had been paid for by automatic withdrawal from her account, was repossessed. Wharton was also unaware of the notices or calls regarded her car.

Giusto, wanting to continue to help, set up an appointment for Wharton with her bank, and his family drove her there. “I feel like it’s my job to take care of my clients, even if it’s not in my job description,” he said.

Multiple ATM withdrawals were found to be the cause of Wharton’s account draining, and access had also been gained to a reverse mortgage line of credit.

Wharton, who believed that Newman was responsible for draining her bank accounts and then hiding information from her, contacted the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office to report identity theft and financial elder abuse. While living with her, Newman had access to Wharton’s debit card and PIN number.

Wharton said she had been noticing that mail and cash from around the house was disappearing. On weekdays, between business hours, Newman would tell her that the phone was not working and unplugged it from the wall. In addition, Wharton’s credit card had been overdrawn and turned off, and her late husband’s death-benefit account had been emptied.

Adult Protective Services visited Wharton’s home to ask Newton to leave and helped Wharton obtain a restraining order.

Giusto also did his part to save Wharton from Newman’s alleged deeds. He said he walked with Newman to the SAM bus stop, gave her $20 and told her to leave, that she wasn’t wanted.

“I was basically disgusted and irritated that she would do something like that,” he said.

Adult Protective Services staff also helped set Wharton up with Meals on Wheels and transportation assistance.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office continues to look for information on Newman, who is wanted for questioning. The 47-year-old is a white female, 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs approximately 120 pounds. Citizens who know of her whereabouts are encouraged to use Clackamas County’s confidential tip line, 503-723-4949.