A Newberg woman will soon emerge from jail after pleading guilty to bilking her elderly neighbor out of thousands of dollars.
Kelly Diane Emerson, 57, was arrested in late September and was indicted soon after on charges of first-degree aggravated theft, aggravated identity theft and first-degree burglary.
The indictment, pursued by prosecutor Deputy District Attorney Holly Winter, says that between May 1 and Aug. 31, 2020, Emerson stole at least $10,000 from her 80-year-old neighbor, whom she had befriended over the past year. The indictment also claimed that, over a 180-day period, Emerson had altered the PIN the victim used at her bank's ATM as well as a local grocery store.
Emerson was appointed counsel, McMinnville attorney Scott Hodges in late September when she was arraigned. The case hinged on an investigation by Newberg-Dundee Police Department Detective Jay Stearns, who was responsible for the probable cause affidavit that preceded the indictment.
Stearns began investigating the case in mid-August when he received word that the woman "had been the victim of a substantial theft," according to the probable cause affidavit, and that money had been withdrawn from her U.S. Bank account without her permission or knowledge.
"Transaction history revealed the suspect had withdrawn thousands of dollars over the past few months at various ATMs and retail establishments in the Newberg area," the affidavit said.
Stearns determined that Emerson had developed a relationship with the victim, who lived in an upstairs apartment, for which she had secured a key. She "would often stop to fellowship, clean, do her own laundry and check (the victim's) mail," the affidavit added.
Unbeknownst to the victim, however, Emerson had allegedly also been intercepting the victim's bank statements so she wouldn't know that something was amiss with her account.
Police harvested surveillance video from Safeway in early August the showed Emerson using the victim's debit card to buy household products and secure an additional $100 cash back.
"(The victim) confirmed that she never gave Kelly Emerson permission to do such a thing," Stearns said in the affidavit.
Police also subpoenaed ATM footage from the Newberg branch of U.S. Bank that allegedly showed Emerson withdrawing money using the victim's debit card more than 14 times.
"This was a small sampling of the multiple times Kelly Emerson unlawfully used (the victim's) debit card," the affidavit said.
Emerson was interviewed by police on Sept. 24 and admitted to using the woman's debit card to withdraw money from ATMs and get cash back. She also admitted to obtaining the victim's debit card info, including the PIN, around May of 2020, when she helped Hannan set up an online bank account.
On Jan. 19 she entered a guilty plea before Circuit Court Judge John Collins and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years of probation for first-degree aggravated theft. The other charges were dropped as part of the plea deal. She also was ordered to pay $15,200 in restitution to U.S. Bank and a host of other stipulations during probation and afterward.
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