A 75-year-old Wheatland woman was allegedly bilked out of her home and life savings by her handyman.
Andrew Wade, 37, made his initial appearance in court Tuesday on charges of felony theft, obstructing police and false swearing.
According to the criminal complaint, Wade worked for a landscaping company hired by the woman to tend her home in the 5900 block of 380th Avenue in Wheatland. He eventually began doing handyman work on the property.
The woman lived alone, is unmarried, has no children, no family in the area, and has never been employed.
In August 2016, the woman had heart surgery, and she asked Wade to watch her home. A month later, while she was being cared for at a rehabilitation facility, Wade visited the woman.
According to the complaint, “(Wade) promised to take care of (the woman’s) finances on her behalf. The defendant also promised that if (she) transferred ownership of the (Wheatland) home to him he would maintain the home and she would be allowed to reside at the house for the remainder of her life. The assessed value of the home was $339,900.”
The complaint states that the woman agreed to transfer ownership of her home to Wade and signed a power of attorney giving him control of her finances in September 2016. She also signed a will leaving her entire estate to Wade. The attorney who handled the documents was recommended by Wade.
All of the documents were signed while the woman was still in the rehabilitation facility.
According to the complaint, the woman “indicated she has a vague idea of what a power of attorney is or can do, and that she has never read one.” The deed she signed over for her home did not maintain a life estate for the woman.
Kept out of home
When the woman was released from the rehabilitation facility in late October 2016, according to the complaint, Wade told her she could not move home because he was having the house cleaned.
He didn’t allow her to come back until Dec. 5, forcing her to stay in a hotel during that period.
When she did return home, she “found that all her furniture, clothing, electronics, appliances, housewares, family heirlooms, jewelry and personal effects had been taken from the home.”
The woman was not allowed to move back into the house. Instead, she “began living in the garage/workshop on the property that is not suitable for living based on building code while (Wade) now lives in the actual home.”
Bank account depleted
According to the complaint, bank records showed the woman had $174,799 in her bank account in 2014. In 2016, according to the complaint, $163,189 was transferred from the woman’s account to Wade’s.
The woman was left with a bank balance of $233.
In 2016, $140,300 was transferred in nine transactions over eight months from the woman’s bank account to Wade’s, according to the complaint.
Wade bought a $28,500 truck for cash, put a $8,500 down payment on a house in Lake Geneva, purchased an SUV for $25,000, a camper for $7,865 and a boat for $2,800.
The woman also gave Wade her debit card “so he could buy her groceries.” From November 2015 to December 2017, debit card transactions withdrew $17,140 from the woman’s account for both purchases and cash withdrawals. More than $6,800 was spent using the debit card during the time the woman was in the hospital or in the rehabilitation facility.
Questioned by detective
According to the complaint, Wade told a Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department detective in 2017 that the woman was paying him to “rehab” her home and that once she transferred ownership she stopped paying him and he “turned the detached garage on the property into a really nice apartment” for her.
He also told the detective, according to the complaint, that the woman had given him a $10,000 business loan that he had “more than paid off in work he had done for her” and had never given her other cash besides “a few hundred dollars for groceries.” In a later deposition, he said she had given him several loans, one of $20,000.
Civil suit filed
In 2017, the woman filed a civil suit against Wade alleging “fraud, misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, use of undue influence, conversion and unjust enrichment.” The suit was filed with the help of Legal Action of Wisconsin, which handles legal cases for low-income individuals.
As part of that suit, Wade was deposed under oath in 2018. During that deposition, he made statements the criminal complaint alleges are false, including saying he paid for plumbing work in her home and that he transferred money to her bank account. There is no bank record of those transactions, according to the complaint.
He also stated during the deposition that he had “no idea” the woman was executing a quit claim deed on her house until he was called by her attorney to “go in and sign the paperwork.” The attorney who did the documents disputes that.
At his initial appearance in court Tuesday, Wade was given a signature bond and ordered not to have contact with the woman.
Wade’s defense attorney Frank Parise said he had no comment beyond saying that he was still examining about 750 pages of documents provided by the Kenosha County district attorney’s office.
Wade said after the hearing that he had no comment.
Two advocates for the woman from the Kenosha County Division of Aging and Disability Services also declined to comment.
The attorneys handling the civil case for the woman and for Wade also could not be reached for comment.