Monday, February 23, 2015

MORENO VALLEY: Caregiver sentenced for defrauding dying cancer patient

MORENO VALLEY: Caregiver sentenced for defrauding dying cancer patient

Matthew Taylor, a local minister, gets time served plus mandatory supervision in the elder-abuse case, and is ordered to pay almost $200,000 in restitution.


MORENO VALLEY: Caregiver sentenced for defrauding dying cancer patient

CORRECTION: Matthew Taylor is an associate minister in the Moreno Valley First Apostolic Faith Church. Any travel to give religious speeches was not related to his work with the church or the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, according to Pastor James Belle. Because of incorrect information presented at Taylor's sentencing hearing, his position with the church was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.

Diagnosed with cancer and no longer able to live on his own, 87-year-old Lawrence Fusha needed a caregiver and was introduced in 2011 to Matthew Taylor by a trusted friend.
Within a few months, Fusha was dead and money and property valued at almost $200,000 had been taken.
On Monday, Feb. 2, Taylor, 42, a minister who lives in Moreno Valley, was sentenced in Riverside County Superior Court to 30 days -- which will be fulfulled by time already served in jail --plus two years and 11 months under mandatory supervision.
He pleaded guilty to embezzlement and fraud of an elderly person by a caretaker, and admitted a sentencing enhancement of taking property, according to court records.
“Our concern is that there will be more victims,” said Fusha’s nephew, Denny Smith.
Deputy District Attorney Janet Hasegawa said outside court that Fusha lived with Taylor in Moreno Valley for about two months in 2011, leading up to his final hospitalization at the VA hospital in Loma Linda.
Fusha’s Social Security and pension checks were deposited for three more months into a joint bank account Taylor set up, Hasegawa said.
In March 2011, a Moreno Valley bank employee became suspicious and reported that Fusha was withdrawing large sums of money during a short time period, accompanied by a man later identified as Taylor, according to arrest warrant documentation.
Taylor told a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigator that Fusha gave him $150,000 toward the purchase of a home in Perris, but Fusha’s name was not on the deed “as it would tie the property up in probate upon Fusha’s death,” according to the warrant.
Taylor produced powers of attorney documents and a trust signed by Fusha, but a sheriff’s investigator described the elderly man as “mentally incapable to make financial decisions or (grant) power of attorney.”
In an email Tuesday, Taylor said that while Fusha was in his care, he "was not mentally incapable ... I think he made great decisions." Taylor also disputed some of the facts presented in court, including when he met Fusha. He did not respond to a request for more details.
Taylor also said he only pleaded guilty "because I don't trust the system" of going to trial represented by a public defender when he could no longer afford a private attorney. "I did not take any money from Mr Fusha."
In court Monday, Fusha’s nephew, Denny Smith, described how Fusha was known as the “mayor” of his street, Villa Zanita in Altadena, because “he was always doing projects for the neighbors, especially the elderly.”
Taylor is an associate minister in the Moreno Valley First Apostolic Faith Church.
Smith said Taylor’s religious background and meeting him led relatives in Northern California to trust Taylor at first. Smith said now they must live with Taylor’s deceit and “egregious abuse.”
Fusha’s estate has recovered some assets from Taylor in a probate case settlement. The District Attorney’s Office obtained a court order to freeze assets, including proceeds of sale of the Perris home, that will help satisfy $197,669 in restitution.
Contact the writer: 951-368-9075 or

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