A Middletown, Ohio woman lost over $150,000 to a faux healthcare provider.
The victim of the fraud is 58-year-old Melissa Cornett. Cornett has multiple sclerosis and needs help around her house. Accordingly, she enlisted the help of 39-year-old neighbor Rhonda Smith to get through her daily routines. Cornett hired Smith after Smith told her she was a certified health care worker.
Smith spent the last year helping Cornett get through the day. She helped Cornett clean her house, pay her bills, and drive her son to and from school. Cornett paid Smith $250 a week for her services.
Cornett told the Dayton Daily News that she and Smith formed what she thought was a close friendship -- Smith even called Cornett "mom." To help make life easier, Cornett let Smith use her debit cards for groceries and routine expenses.
One day, Middletown police received an anonymous call from someone concerned about Cornett’s finances. Cornett, who once had over $150,000 in savings, was almost broke. Police looked into the tip. What they found was shocking.
“She [Smith] went to casinos, went on vacations, purchased absolutely everything,” said Middletown Police Detective Steve Winters. “It’s disgusting.”
In addition to extravagant trips and purchases, Smith used Cornett’s debit cards to withdraw thousands of dollars from ATMs. She lived a lavish lifestyle for an entire year on Cornett’s dime.
Winters said a number of other people used Cornett’s stolen money alongside Smith.
“It’s unbelievable,” Winters said. "Five people were living off this victim. The suspect has a boyfriend and a husband. The husband went over to the victim’s house and was trying to get money from her to pay the bond for his wife.”
With little money left to her name, Cornett is worried she may lose her home.
“I hope not, because this is in the family; I grew up here,” said Cornett. “I should’ve saw it; I didn’t.”
Smith is now facing felony theft charges. After being arrested by police, Smith nonchalantly said, “Yeah, maybe I went through about $25,000 that I shouldn’t have.”