Hildebrand faces 15 charges of larceny

Published 2:57 pm Friday, July 31, 2015

By Abby Proch
Staff writer

Former School Board Chairman Kent Hildebrand has been charged with stealing more than $200,000 from an elderly woman.

Hildebrand, 62, of Carrollton, allegedly defrauded Carol Jackson, 80, of $206,000 after she gave him access to her checking account to help pay her bills, according to the Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office.

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Jackson is also a resident of Red Oaks Mobile Home Park where Hildebrand works as manager.

Hildebrand has been charged with 15 counts of grand larceny, one count of identity theft and one count of credit card fraud.

He was arrested Monday afternoon from Red Oaks and is being held without bond at Western Tidewater Regional Jail, said Lt. Tommy Potter with the Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office.

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon, he said.

The alleged thefts occurred through more than 300 bank transactions between February 2008 and March 2015.{mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Hildebrand had held a seat on the School Board since January 2012. He resigned abruptly for “personal reasons” on March 14, 2015 — a little more than a week after the Sheriff’s Office received its complaint.

According to Potter, Hildebrand and Jackson’s relationship began when, having known Jackson and her parents through church, Hildebrand offered to help her relocate from New Hampshire.

“Because she trusted his mother so much, she trusted him,” said daughter Ruth Snow in an April interview.

Once Jackson moved to Smithfield, Hildebrand coordinated the sale of her home in New Hampshire and her purchase of a mobile home at Red Oaks.

Soon after, in late 2007 or early 2008, he also began paying bills for Jackson, who had begun to age and had trouble remembering when they were due, said Potter.

“Her dementia is going to get worse, and it’s going to get her,” said Snow.

Jackson named Hildebrand as an authorized user on her checking account and gave him power of attorney for medical decisions, though not for other decisions, said Potter.

With access to her checking account, Hildebrand cancelled monthly paper statements and opted for digital versions, which he accessed from his computer.

Jackson had stopped receiving statements, but never had a reason to check them because she received monthly veterans retirement checks to comfortably cover her expenses, said Potter.

Eight years later, at the end February or beginning of March, Jackson visited Veterans Affairs for financial planning advice with the understanding she had about $84,000 to invest, said Potter.

VA employees told Jackson her checking account held much less, which she later confirmed with her bank, Wells Fargo.

Her bank account had been all but drained.

Abusing relationships

Crimes against older individuals can range from personal relationships to telephone scams.
“It could’ve been viewed as being helpful, and that’s how he gained her trust,” said Lt. Tommy Potter with the Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office.
Potter was speaking about Carol Jackson, who had allegedly been duped out of $206,000 by former Isle of Wight School Board Chairman Kent Hildebrand.
Hildebrand faces several charges of grand larceny, as well as credit card fraud and identity theft.
But taking advantage of elderly people’s trusting nature isn’t unusual for criminals targeting Isle of Wight residents. 
From January until May 2015, Isle of Wight has seen 104 crimes targeting those ages 55 and older.
Of the crimes committed against that group, 42 were for fraud of various types: identity theft, scam attempt, scam and e-commerce.
In April, 11 people had reported their identities had been stolen to file fraudulent federal income taxes.
In May, five people reported a scam call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, though they were savvy enough not to fall for the ploy.
Some were not as fortunate, including a woman who paid a “foreign-sounding” man $2,100 to mail her a dog (that never came) and a man who paid $199 for computer software only to have it cause a virus.
The company agreed to fix the virus if he bought a $1,000 debit card and provided it with the card number.
The victim did, but the fix never happened, and neither he nor the dog scam victim ever reclaimed their money.
The difference in the Hildebrand case is familiarity.
“Instead of somebody on the other end of the phone, it was someone that she trusted,” said Potter.

“Woo, was I mad!” said Jackson during an April interview, her daughter and nurse mirroring her sentiments.

VA employees soon informed social services of the potential elder abuse, and social services called the Sheriff’s Office.

Around the same time, Jackson’s family confronted Hildebrand.

On March 4, Hildebrand delivered to Jackson a “no harm, no foul” type of agreement that he would pay her $20,000 in cash and 68 monthly payments of $500 to cover a debt of about $54,000, said Potter.

Potter confirmed that Hildebrand had liquidated his assets to put $20,000 in a trust account.

Unsure whether to sign the agreement, Jackson and her family turned to the Sheriff’s Office for advice.

The decision proved to be a fortuitous one.

Had Jackson signed the agreement, she would have had no recourse to pursue criminal charges against him, said Potter.

Over the past eight years, Hildebrand has allegedly defrauded Jackson by padding his personal bank account with her money, as well as his business account for Titan Mobile Home Supplies, which he co-owns with his daughter, said Potter.

Although Hildebrand allegedly transferred funds from Jackson’s account into his personal or business accounts, he also allegedly paid for items directly from Jackson’s account, including his mortgage and his family’s personal property taxes and cell phones bills, said Potter.

In addition to using the Jackson’s checking account, Hildebrand allegedly took out a $10,000 life insurance policy on Jackson in the spring of 2008, naming himself as the beneficiary, and paid the premiums with the Jackson’s money, said Potter.

Hildebrand is also accused of pocketing cash given to him by Jackson’s grandchildren, which was intended to repay their cell phone bills paid by Jackson.

Potter also alleged Hildebrand opened a credit card in Jackson’s name to supposedly improve her credit.

When she received the card, Hildebrand took it, allegedly ran it up to its $5,000 limit, and made the minimum payments with Jackson’s money, said Potter.

At some point, Hildebrand allegedly convinced Jackson to put her trailer in his daughter’s name.

At the Red Oaks office, investigators found a letter allegedly from Hildebrand’s daughter explaining she owned the trailer but had given Jackson rights to live in it, according to Potter.

Once family members learned of the transaction, they successfully pressed Hildebrand to return ownership to Jackson, said Potter.

Over the course of his alleged swindling scheme, Hildebrand allegedly demanded Jackson, or her family members, ask his permission when going to buy groceries, get a manicure, or make other routine purchases, said Potter.

Hildebrand would then allegedly check the account and move money back and forth from his checking account or getting a cash advance from her credit card to cover the costs.

Investigators have traced Hildebrand’s alleged crimes back to February 2008, but that’s where the bank records end, said Potter.

Potter says he has no reason to believe there are other victims, but the case remains open.

Potter emphasized that Hildebrand did not steal School Board funds.

However, Jackson allegedly made a donation to Smithfield High School for a new public address system.

A Dec. 13, 2012 report to the School Board shows an anonymous donation of $1,000 for the PA system.

But, Jackson does not recall giving the donation, said Potter.

The complaint against Hildebrand first reached the Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office on March 4.

The Sheriff’s Office forwarded the complaint to Commonwealth Attorney Georgette Phillips for her to determine whether a crime had been committed.

At the time, Phillips had planned to defer the investigation to the Virginia State Police because Hildebrand was a public official.

However, once he resigned from his post, Phillips and the Sheriff’s Office reinvigorated their investigation and finally sought warrants against him.

Sheriff Mark Marshall credited Investigator Kris Coughlin’s work on the complicated case laden with feet-high stacks of financial record and the cooperation and assistance from the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.{/mprestriction}