Sanford woman pleads guilty to financially exploiting and elderly neighbor

September 10, 2022
Accomack County Courthouse

By Linda Cicoira

     A Sanford woman pleaded guilty Thursday in Accomack Circuit Court to financially exploiting the mental incapacity of an elderly neighbor.

     In a plea bargain, sixty-two-year-old Rose Marie Thornes agreed to pay back $68,200 she obtained from Philip Douglas Fisher between May 16, 2017 and Sept. 24, 2018 through a legal maneuver that also served as a civil judgment. Thornes also surrendered a Ford F-250 pickup to Fisher’s heir. The value of the vehicle was not disclosed.

    Thornes was initially indicted for 17 charges. In a plea bargain with Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan, she pleaded guilty to one charge that was amended to take in the total restitution figure.

Hertrich FOrd September

     Morgan said Fisher lost his wife and his health started to deteriorate in 2015 when Thornes became his caregiver. His family started noticing large cash withdrawals before Fisher died in 2018. The Accomack Department of Social Services received a complaint and investigated. The prosecutor said a bank video showed Thornes making a $9,000 withdrawal from an account that belonged to Fisher.

     The defendant and her husband also paid $14,000 in cash for repairs to the roof of their house, an expense that coincided with money withdrawn from one of Fisher’s accounts, Morgan said. Thornes had previously told authorities that they had saved their money in order to fix the roof.

      Fisher was not diagnosed with dementia until 2018. That late diagnosis was the reason the prosecutor said he offered a plea bargain. Defense lawyer Carl Bundick said Thornes made the agreement for one charge to avoid conviction of more.

     The agreement also allowed Thornes to remain free on bond until she is sentenced. on Dec. 15.


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