Vietnam War veteran’s life savings gone as self-proclaimed preacher now charged
BOONE COUNTY, Ky. (WXIX) - A Vietnam War veteran’s entire life savings are gone, and a self-proclaimed preacher is facing charges in connection with the alleged crime.
John Stephenson is charged with knowing exploitation of an adult over $300 and theft by unlawfully taking over $10,000, according to court documents.
The alleged victim in the case is 78-year-old Darris Beach.
For more than 20 years, Bill Price has known his neighbor, Beach, and also has the power of attorney for the veteran.
“Darris called me and told me he had some money missing out of his bank account and asked would I take him up to the bank and I said well sure,” recalled Price.
So, Price and Beach went to the Fifth Third in Union to see what was going on.
When they got there, Price says Beach discovered $60,000 was missing from his account.
“Well, that was all of Darris’s life savings that he had,” Price explained. “That’s what he was going to have to live on here because he can’t work anymore.”
Price says Beach’s health is in decline and he is in home hospice in Verona.
According to the Boone County Sheriff’s Office, Stephenson just happened to be at the courthouse Tuesday on an unrelated matter when a court official recognized him.
Stephenson was led up to a courtroom on the second floor where a judge read the charges against him.
Court records say Stephenson unlawfully obtained or used the financial resources of [Beach], who due to physical dysfunction “was unable to manage his own resources, carry out the activities of daily living or protect himself from exploitation without the assistance from others.”
It is unclear how Stephenson allegedly persuaded Beach to give him access to his finances.
“I guess Darris, you know, didn’t think anything about it because [Stephenson] was supposed to be a preacher,” says Price.
Price says Beach is now “heartbroken,” wondering why someone would do such a thing.
“You know, he’s dying and in hospice care, and for somebody to come in and take that kind of money from him, that’s all he had,” Price says. “It’s unbelievable to think somebody would even do that.”
Stephenson is expected back in court next week for his official arraignment.
Meanwhile, Price says Beach just hopes to be able to recover some of the money that was allegedly stolen from him.
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