Three former employees of McKinley Place senior living community to stand trial on theft charges

OZAUKEE COUNTY -- Three women, former employees of the McKinley Place senior living community in Cedarburg -- accused of stealing from residents at the facility appeared in court on Tuesday, April 12th for their initial court appearances.

The accused are:

Joan Walton Wentz

59-year-old Joan Walton Wentz

    Lafaysha Drew

    30-year-old Lafaysha Drew

      29-year-old Lugenia Taylor

        In court on Tuesday, probable cause was found for each of these women to stand trial in this case.

        Each of the women received a $1,000 signature bond.

        Drew and Taylor will be in court for their preliminary hearings on June 9th. Wentz will be in court on June 7th for a status hearing.

        During her initial court appearance, Taylor's attorney moved to have one of the charges against her dismissed. It was ordered that Taylor's attorney submit that request in writing within one week, and the state will then respond.

        According to the criminal complaint, on January 26th, Cedarburg police spoke with two women who showed up at the Cedarburg Police Department for a report of a theft. The women told officers their long-time family friend, an 83-year-old woman with dementia, was victimized at the "McKinley Place" senior living community on McKinley Boulevard in Cedarburg.

        One of the women said she served as the financial "power of attorney" for the victim, who had moved into the senior living community around Thanksgiving 2015.

        McKinley Place

        The women told officers that shortly after the victim moved into the facility, they noticed things they felt needed to be brought to the attention of the facility's administrator. For example, they said they noted that the woman's medications were not being administered in the proper doses, and that they were given at improper times or skipped altogether. The women also claimed their friend wasn't receiving showering assistance, and was given a shower once in a two-month period. They claimed her bedding was changed once since her arrival in November.

        In addition to these complaints, the woman told police they noticed items missing from their friend's apartment at the facility.

        Hidden cameras placed in clocks

        The women purchased two video recorders which were disguised as clocks, and one was placed in the woman's bedroom, and the other in the living room of her apartment at the facility.

        The women claimed the cameras captured a McKinley Place employee taking three Target gift cards that were lying on their friend's kitchen counter. They also reported a Pick 'n Save gift card stolen by an employee.

        The complaint indicates one of the victim's friends was able to show police video recorded on January 25th, which showed an employee the women identified as "Joan" removing the victim's purse from a dresser drawer in her apartment. "Joan" was seen removing a $20 bill, several $1 bills and a $10 bill from the purse. "Joan" was seen placing the money into her pocket. The video clearly showed "Joan's" face.

        The victim's friends told police they had two other videos which showed various employees entering their friend's refrigerator and removing food items for their own consumption.

        Cedarburg police on January 31st received 14 videos showing various employees entering the victim's apartment at McKinley Place and "looking through cabinets, closets, the refrigerator and bathroom vanity."

        "How can you sleep at night? How can you do this to people who can't defend themselves? This is as bad as abusing a child. Somebody has to protect these people. I hope that people realize you can't just put someone into assisted living and walk away. It's very hard to watch this happen to someone you love," the victim's friend said.

        Hidden cameras capture thefts at McKinley Place assisted living facility in Cedarburg

        On February 1st, Cedarburg police spoke with the administrator of McKinley Place, informing him that these two women had set up hidden video cameras in their friend's apartment. The administrator took a look at the video allegedly showing "Joan" stealing money from the woman's apartment, and the administrator was able to identify the woman seen in the video as Joan Walton Wentz.

        The administrator identified Lafaysha Drew as the person seen on video eating food from the victim's refrigerator, and taking three Target gift cards from the woman's apartment, according to the complaint.

        Hidden cameras capture thefts at McKinley Place assisted living facility in Cedarburg

        The administrator identified Lugenia Taylor as the person seen on video taking a Pick 'n Save gift card from the victim's apartment, according to the complaint.

        Police spoke with Walton Wentz at the facility. According to the complaint, Walton Wentz said she had "no information to give" regarding any thefts at the facility. When Walton Wentz was notified that hidden camera video had been recorded, showing certified nursing assistants committing thefts, Walton Wentz said she had taken money from a man who lived at the facility. Walton Wentz also told police she had taken money from the purse of a woman living at the facility.

        McKinley Place

        According to the complaint, Walton Wentz said her husband had passed away three years ago, and she had "come on hard times" and needed the money.

        When asked if she had committed any additional thefts, the complaint indicates Walton Wentz "adamently" stated that she did not.

        When shown the video of "Joan" stealing money from the women's friend's apartment at McKinley Place, Walton Wentz then acknowledged she had also stolen money from that woman, according to the complaint.

        Police say Walton Wentz admitted to stealing a total of $60 from the three residents at the facility.

        Walton Wentz was terminated from McKinley Place.

        Drew was also interviewed by police. She was shown video showing a person stealing Target gift cards from the woman's apartment, and Drew denied taking any gift cards from the victim.

        Police asked Taylor to come to the Cedarburg Police Department for an interview in this case, but as of February 8th, she had not done so.

        Drew and Taylor were also terminated from McKinley Place.

        A representative from McKinley Place told FOX6 News "the safety and well-being of our residents is of the highest importance," and said they have been cooperating with police.

        Court records show a past theft conviction for one of the suspects in this case. McKinley Place officials wouldn't tell us about any background checks done on employees.