A Hamburg Township woman denied Friday that she embezzled from an elderly woman who has dementia, but admits she borrowed money from her.
Cheryl Elaine Smith, 61, said she repaid all the money – she couldn’t say how much – she borrowed from an 89-year-old Washtenaw County woman she calls a friend, “except what I just borrowed - $33,500 for a lot (in Florida) and the Coach (a trailer) was $12,050.”
“I told her I’d pay it back in June 2017,” Smith said. “I borrowed it a few months ago.”
Smith said she has a signed and notarized statement showing the transfer of money is legitimate, but the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office has charged her in 15th District Court in Ann Arbor with embezzling between $50,000 and $100,000 from a vulnerable adult and embezzling more than $20,000 from the same victim.
Related: Woman accused of embezzling from woman with dementia
She returns to court Thursday for a probable cause conference and March 9 for a preliminary exam.
Multiple messages to the Ann Arbor Police Department, which investigated the case, were not returned.
Smith believes her siblings, who challenged her representation of their mother’s estate in Livingston County probate court, initiated the police investigation after she used a $3,000 check from the elderly Ann Arbor woman’s account to pay for an attorney in the Livingston County case.
Smith said she was not a caregiver for the elderly woman, but she handled the woman’s finances, including making bank deposits, and running errands for the woman.
“She kept writing a note for me to get money out,” Smith explained. “I said I could do deposits, but I couldn’t take money out.
“The only way to do that is to have your name on the account, and she said she’d put my name on the account. That’s how I got money to take out to take to her,” she added.
Smith said an opportunity to purchase a lot and mobile home in Florida came up, and she borrowed the $45,550 from the Washtenaw County woman.
However, she said, the sale price was still being negotiated with the Florida woman’s estate and, thus, she left the amount blank on the notarized loan document she used to borrow money from the Washtenaw County woman. She said she filled in the blank space once the sale price was determined.
“The detective is saying that it’s taking advantage of an older person,” Smith said, reiterating that the elderly woman approved her actions.
In Livingston County, Smith’s siblings accused her of fraudulently transferring deeds of their mother’s personal real estate holdings to her name, according to court records.
The siblings also allege Smith misappropriated their mother’s money for “multiple purchases” of round-trip airline tickets to Florida and shopping excursions at a variety of Michigan stores, including Coach and Bed Bath & Beyond.
The siblings also allege Smith misappropriated a $100,000 retirement account belonging to their mother, who had Alzheimer’s and who died in March 2015.
“I took it very hard,” Smith said about her mother’s death. “I only used my mother’s money for what my mother told me to use it for."
Livingston County court records do not show that Smith has been charged with any offense in relation to the allegations in the probate case.
Contact Livingston Daily justice reporter Lisa Roose-Church at 517-552-2846 or lrchurch@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRooseChurch