RAY COUNTY, Mo. — A former city clerk guilty of stealing nearly $100,000 from the city of Lawson is now charged with theft again, only this time prosecutors say her victim is an elderly woman.
Rhonda Minnick is charged in Ray County with eight counts of forgery, one count of financial exploitation of the elderly, and one count of theft/stealing and one count of fraudulent use of a credit/debit device.
Prosecutors say Minnick stole more than $6,000 dollars from a 67-year-old woman she was trusted to care for in the woman’s home. Despite Minnick’s public criminal record, prosecutors say Minnick was hired by Integrity Home Care.
For the past year, Minnick had been in the victim’s home about twice a week taking care of household duties and errands.
For fear of retribution, the victim doesn’t want Fox 4 to identify her, but has a warning for others. The woman, living on a fixed income, with no family and in poor health, said she was alone, except for Minnick.
“I really trusted her like I would have my own kids,” the victim said.
According to prosecutors, Minnick’s employers say she was not supposed to have any access to the victim’s banking or personal finances. The victim says she didn’t know that.
“She was buying my groceries and whatever I needed,” the victim said.
When the victim’s last two rent checks bounced, the manager of her Lawson senior citizen housing complex became curious.
“That really bothers me. She didn’t have anything in her refrigerator,” manager Larenda Dravenstott said through tears about finding out the victim’s situation.
“It was very devastating financially,” the victim said.
There was no food because the victim’s money was gone. Prosecutors say Minnick had been forging her own name on the victim’s personal checks and withdrawing the victim’s money from an ATM.
“I was sick. It’s a sick feeling when you know someone’s being taken advantage of in a helpless situation,” said Dravenstott.
Prosecutors say Minnick was able to conceal the theft for almost a year by hiding bank statements when she brought in the victim’s mail.
“I just told her, I said, ‘why?’ I said, ‘I’m finding all this stuff out and I knew none of it,'” the victim said of confronting Minnick. “She told me sorry for what she had done.”
Minnick was arrested and is currently still in jail. Dravenstott now has a warning for others who may have a loved one or friend in a similar situation.
“If you have a senior citizen and you know that they don’t have a lot of family, check on them, make sure they are okay, make sure they have food,” she said.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services oversees home health care companies. The department says a background check would have shown Minnick’s criminal record. The state would not confirm if a background check had been done on Minnick by her employers, Integrity Home Care.
The state also says Minnick’s 2007 stealing conviction would not have put her on the employee disqualification list. That list prevents individuals who have committed a specific type of felony conviction, specifically crimes against persons, from working in home health care.
Integrity Home Care returned Fox 4’s calls just before airtime Monday night and left a voice mail. Calls back have so far gone unanswered. It’s not clear if the company did in fact do a background check on Minnick before she was employed.