Butte woman sentenced to prison for stealing more than $600,000 from elderly, blind victim under her guardianship

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice Building is pictured

MISSOULA  — A Butte woman who admitted to stealing more than $600,000 from an elderly and blind woman, now deceased, who was under her care, and spending the money instead on lake property, vehicles, a pontoon boat and other items for herself was sentenced on Aug. 10 to one year and a day in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said today.

Debra Gean Roeber, 66, pleaded guilty in April to wire fraud and to money laundering.

U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen presided.  Judge Christensen also ordered $661,549.00 in restitution. 

“Montanans are inherently trusting and the victim in this case trusted Roeber because she was the victim’s guardian.  Roeber abused that trust when she defrauded her elderly, lonely, and blind victim, which is not just tragic and egregious, it’s reprehensible and unacceptable.  Our office and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate elder abuse, and we will be steadfast in our commitment to protect our most vulnerable friends and neighbors,” U.S. Attorney Laslovich said.

“Senior citizens and those that care about them must be vigilant to prevent future scams targeting elder Americans,” said Andy Tsui, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation Denver Field Office. “As a community, it is our responsibility to care for our elders. As a law enforcement community, it is our duty to hold individuals accountable who abuse their position of trust and steal from the people that are under their care.”

“Motivated purely by greed, Roeber defrauded the victim and betrayed her trust. This was a truly reprehensible crime aggravated by the fact that the victim was blind,” said Special Agent in Charge Dennis Rice of the Salt Lake City FBI. “Our elderly citizens should be valued, not victimized. The FBI and our law enforcement partners will hold accountable those who prey on society’s vulnerable populations.” 

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The government alleged in court documents that the state district court appointed Roeber as the guardian and conservator for the victim, identified as Jane Doe, who was unable to care for herself or her financial needs without assistance because she was blind. From about January 2017 until June 2020, Roeber stole $661,549 from Jane Doe and used the money for, among other things, construction projects on lake property at Canyon Ferry, vehicles, furniture, a pontoon boat and cash. None of the expenditures was authorized. Roeber admitted she took advantage of Jane Doe “a lot,” including lying to the victim about her finances. Jane Doe, who is now deceased, lived her final days believing this fraud left her destitute and unable to care for her simple needs.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan G. Weldon prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation.

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