By Steven Fletcher
An Action Inc. home care aide faces four charges of theft after she allegedly stole around $10,000 worth of jewelry from four elderly women over the winter.
Beatrice Saunders, 44, of 98 Bass Ave., is up for a pre-trial hearing on July 13, court documents show.
She faces four charges of larceny from a building, and was arraigned on April 17. A trial date hasn't been set. The charges follow a February investigation by Gloucester detective Steven Mizzoni. He sough criminal complaints against her in March.
Two women, residents of McPherson Park, told Nancy Orne, a case manager at the housing complex, that rings disappeared from on top of their bedroom dressers. She called police, and officer Scott Duffany responded, with the women teling him they each had a $500 ring stolen from their rooms. One said it was taken on Feb. 21, the other said hers was taken weeks later, according to police reports.
"During the investigation, Officer Duffany learned that the same cleaning person, working for Action Inc. ... identified as Beatrice Saunders had cleaned their apartments," Mizzoni's report reads. "Saunders became a suspect when we learned that Saunders was also the cleaning person for two other elderly women in Gloucester who had reported missing/stolen jewelry from their homes over ... several weeks."
Saunders worked as a home care aide for Action Inc. and handled clients of local elder services nonprofit corporation SeniorCare Inc.
Action Inc. contracts with SeniorCare and provides the elderly services agency with some 90 workers serving between 400 and 500 seniors in Gloucester and Rockport, It's a $1.5 million contract, said Action's Executive Director Tim Reilly, that is state-funded and administered through SeniorCare.
Scott Trenti, SeniorCare's director of Home Care, said that agency called police when they found out about the allegations. He said he reviewed complaints from two other elderly women who reported stolen jewelry. Saunders was assigned to them as well.
"We had two other complaints from elders who were allegedly victimized by this person, we notified police about those two folks as well," Trenti said.
When police started their investigation, Action's Executive Director Tim Reilly said the nonprofit removed Saunders from serving clients and launched an investigation of its own as well.
"As soon as we were aware that person (she) was removed from her assignments, and when it was apparent that person (she) was responsible, her position was terminated," Reilly said.
Saunders, according to Mizzoni's report, admitted that she took two rings from a Highland Street woman, whose house she had cleaned — one valued at $8,000 and the other at $500. She said she sold the rings to a Seabrook, N.H., pawn shop, according to police.
Mizzoni interviewed Saunders on Feb. 23 at the station. His report sates that she admitted to stealing jewelry from elderly women while cleaning their apartments. She said she took rings from two McPherson Park residents and sold one to R.J. Coin, a Salem pawn shop and the other to Gloucester Estate Buyers. Only one was recovered.
She said she also took a gold chain from a Juniper Road woman, whose house she cleaned, and solid it to a pawn shop in Plaistow, N.H., pawn shop. Trenti told police the woman was also missing a bracelet and signet ring, but those items were not recovered.
Reilly said Saunders passed criminal record checks when she was hired.
Trenti conceded that these situations can sometimes occur. But whenever they do, he said, SeniorCare removes the vendor from that specific case and initiates a visit with the family. The vendor — in this case, Action Inc. — is also required to conduct its own investigation as well. If it involves theft, said Trenti, the state Department of Public Health gets involved as well.
If the suspect is found to be guilty, the nurse registry — a statewide database controlled by the state Health Department, lists the individual provider so "they're not moved from vendor to vendor," Trenti said.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.