BILLINGS — A Billings woman accused of stealing money from an elderly resident while employed at a Billings nursing home today admitted to fraud and identity theft charges, U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.
Elizabeth Marie Stephenson, 36, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. Stephenson faces a maximum of 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine and five years of supervised release on the bank fraud crime and a mandatory minimum two years in prison, consecutive to any other punishment, a $250,000 fine and one year of supervised release on the aggravated identity theft crime.
U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided. The court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentencing was set for July 27. Stephenson was released pending further proceedings.
The government alleged in court documents that in August 2020, the Billings Police Department responded to a report of ongoing theft involving an older resident at Eagle Cliff Manor, a nursing home in Billings. The nephew of and power of attorney for the victim, identified as John Doe, 96, noticed more than $11,000 was missing from Doe’s checking account, with multiple $700 withdrawals made between July and August at Wells Fargo ATMs. Additionally, a debit card was used to purchase credit on a Telmate Inmate Service account at a detention facility. Doe did not realize he was missing money from his account until someone told him. An investigation identified Stephenson, an employee, as the suspect. Stephenson had a boyfriend who was in custody and had an active Telemate account in Idaho.
The government further alleged that Eagle Cliff Manor terminated Stephenson’s employment after discovering her name on a credit card application on Doe’s Wells Fargo account. A statement for the card reflected a $3,500 payment to a criminal defense law firm in California and a $106 charge to Telemate. A receipt from the law firm indicated that Stephenson represented that she was owner of the card and provided a Billings address. Investigators also noted the first unauthorized transaction on Doe’s checking account was at Walmart on July 24, 2020 and that, in total over the next month, more than $17,000 was taken from the account, including withdrawals of $700 nearly every day.
Stephenson admitted to an investigator that she worked with Doe and was dating the individual incarcerated in Idaho but denied the thefts. Stephenson, after being confronted with the evidence, told investigators that Doe gave her his debit card and PIN and asked her to get him a six pack of beer. Stephenson went to Walmart, bought the beer and took out money for herself. Stephenson then continued to withdraw cash for her own expenses. She also admitted to transferring Doe’s funds to the Telemate account. Stephenson claimed Doe provided consent but acknowledged he did not have the capacity to authorize her taking his money.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karla E. Painter is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Billings Police Department and the United States Secret Service.