The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office warned the public to protect its elderly population from potential fraudsters in light of a case currently in court.
On Oct. 13, the office issued a news release stating authorities arrested Brett Lovett, 46, of Camarillo, and Robert Burlison, 64, of La Canada, following a 17-month investigation by the California Department of Insurance and the district attorney’s office.
Lovett is alleged to have defrauded at least nine victims of roughly $1.2 million over the course of several years, beginning in 2011 and continuing through 2016. According to the release, several of the victims were elderly. Burlison, a licensed California attorney and owner of a law firm, allegedly aided and conspired with Lovett.
The DA released the complaint it submitted to the court on Oct. 13.
“The complaint says Mr. Lovett was basically defrauding elderly people and, I believe, one or two dependent adults,” said Gary Gemberling, deputy district attorney and lead for the case.
Gemberling told the Sun Lovett would also acquire power of attorney from his victims and use it to commit the alleged fraud.
“I see a lot of cases that are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and I have had a couple cases where losses have exceeded a million dollars,” Gemberling said. “Usually, cases like these involve multiple victims and a large amount of money over a period of time.”
The DA began the investigation after receiving a tip from Santa Barbara County Adult Protective Services. Gemberling said similar cases were not uncommon for the county.
“We have a large number of elders—most of the time they are people that bought their homes in 1940 for $15,000,” he added.
Those same homes are now worth more than $1 million in some instances and Gemberling said fraudsters typically try to find ways to contact those vulnerable populations, befriend them, and then carry out their theft.
The crimes also largely go unreported, according to the DA’s office.
“The victims in these cases feel embarrassed or foolish that they were stolen from, so they don’t report it,” Gemberling explained. “One of the reasons we try to send out press releases in these types of cases is to educate the general population, including elders and anyone that has an elderly parent or relative.”
Gemberling said it was important to help keep track of older family members’ finances to help prevent potential fraud.
The statute of limitations for elder abuse crimes is four years, but in California, that is measured by the final act of the fraud.
“So you could see a fraud begin in 2010, but if it continued into 2016, we could still pursue that person,” Gemberling explained, adding that the public can report such crimes to local law enforcement, the DA’s Office, or Adult Protective Services.
As of Oct. 17, Lovett remained in custody with a $250,000 bail.
Gemberling said he planned to ask for $250,000 to be added to the bail amount at the next hearing on Oct. 18 in Santa Barbara.