Son accused of using $174,000 for mother’s care to go on cruise, buy cars, police say

After receiving a check for $174,000, a man responsible for his 90-year-old mother’s care at a Columbus assisted living facility used the money to buy vehicles, new clothes, go on a cruise, cash checks and other expenses until the account was empty, a financial crimes detective testified Friday in Recorder’s Court.

Vincent Wiggins, 51, of Phenix City pleaded not guilty to one count of felony exploitation and intimidation of disabled adults or elder persons during a 9 a.m. hearing. Judge Julius Hunter set bond at $50,000 and bound the charge over to Muscogee Superior Court.

Police Detective Crystal Hatcher said police were contacted on Nov. 9 by Adult Protective Services about an elderly woman who may be the victim of financial exploitation at Orchard View, a facility located at 8414 Whitesville Road. An investigation determined the woman received an insurance check for $174,000 and Wiggins was given the check to take care of her monthly expenses ranging from $6,035 to $6,917. During a period between May 2017 and August 2018, the woman’s account went to zero dollars.

Police found purchases for clothing, hotel fees, payment to Tuskegee University, a cruise, checks written to Wiggins for $10,000 each and the purchase of two vehicles, Hatcher testified. The personal checks were cashed in February 2018.

During an interview with the victim, Hatcher said the woman felt something was going on with her finances. “She is very upset,” the detective told the court.

By November 2018, the monthly fees for her stay at the facility had reached $30,000. Hatcher said officials are trying to work something out at the facility.

Hunter questioned how long the money had been used inappropriately. “It’s troubling you got so far behind,” the judge said.

Hatcher said police have a history of payments while Wiggins was on the account. Some partial fees were paid on the woman’s account at the facility.

Matt Brown, an assistant district attorney, said it seems like the suspect has destroyed the victim’s account.

Wiggins was represented by Erik Smith, a public defender, who requested a reasonable bond on the charge.