By Kelly Wheeler,
City News Service
A Las Vegas couple who tricked more than 400 senior citizens — including 250 in San Diego County — into buying phony in-home service agreements for cooking, cleaning and bathing were sentenced today for their crimes and ordered to pay back more than $3 million in restitution.
Michael Woodward, 50, who pleaded guilty in June to residential burglary, theft from an elder, sale of insurance without authorization and failure to file a tax return, was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Melissa Woodward, 48, who pleaded guilty to failure to file a 2006 tax return, was placed on five years probation and ordered to do 200 hours of volunteer work.
Judge Laura Halgren acknowledged that Michael Woodward was more culpable in the scheme and that his wife had a low-level role.
“This did cause a lot of harm and damage to people,” the judge told Michael Woodward.
Property seized after the defendants’ arrests — such as a house on a golf course, condominium, jewelry, artwork and sports memorabilia — will be sold with the proceeds going toward repaying the victims, the judge said.
Besides the 250 victims in San Diego County and another 150 to 200 victims in the rest of California, hundreds of additional victims were located in Texas, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington, said Deputy District Attorney Michael Zachry. The victims ranged in age from 80 to 100, the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor said losses include $1.8 million in San Diego County and $1.2 million in other parts of the state.
The defendants would target the elderly at their homes, telling them that for a prepaid annual fee, they would have access to an unlimited amount of non-medical services such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, dressing, laundry and shopping. To receive services, Michael Woodward told the victims they should call him and provide a doctor’s note, prosecutors said.
In reality, the offer was a sham, according to authorities, who said Woodward and his wife were the only employees of the company and were not able to provide the in-home services he promised.
Inexpensive claims often were paid, but when victims made claims that were more expensive, Michael Woodward would not return phone calls and would reject the claim, according to prosecutors.