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An 85-year-old woman with dementia thought she was giving her son power of attorney and ensuring he and his wife would take over her trust after she died, according to federal prosecutors.
But she had no children — and the man posing as her son was actually her exterminator.
Karl Hampton, 63, and his wife, Deborah Hampton, 59, were arrested Wednesday in Tennessee on charges of wire fraud and money laundering after prosecutors said they weaseled their way into an elderly widow’s life and plundered $1.7 million from her bank accounts over the course of two years.
The Hamptons are accused of spending the money on luxury goods such as a Lexus SUV and a diamond ring. Prosecutors said Karl Hampton also doled out upward of $1,000 a day on lottery tickets.
A defense attorney representing the Hamptons did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Wednesday.
According to a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday, Karl Hampton got to know the widow — identified in court documents only as B.W. — in January 2016 while working for Belle Meade Exterminating Company. At the time, he reportedly made $28,000 a year as a pest control technician.
In early 2018, prosecutors said Hampton convinced B.W. that he was her son or godson and wanted to “care for her personally and financially.” He then “methodically drained” her accounts, in part by writing checks to himself and initiating bank transfers.
B.W.’s sister died at the end of 2017 and she stood to inherit half the estate, according to the complaint. Over the next 10 months, prosecutors said Hampton liquidated the sister’s investment accounts by pretending to be B.W.’s son or personal assistant, netting himself more than $270,000.
By April 2019, prosecutors said Hampton had convinced B.W. to sign over power of attorney, name him in her will and appoint him as her trustee.
Under the trust agreement, B.W.’s niece would receive $300,000. The rest would be set aside in a secondary trust for Hampton, who reportedly quit his job soon after obtaining power of attorney.
B.W. had a fall later in 2019 and was admitted to an assisted living facility after having hip surgery, prosecutors said. She was diagnosed with dementia, and the intake staff also noted she was malnourished. During that time, Hampton is accused of listing himself as the emergency contact and bankrolling B.W’s care using her personal credit cards — without paying off the balance.
In December 2019, prosecutors said Hampton took out a $500,000 line of credit in the widow’s name. He reportedly used the money to buy ownership in a pest control business in Franklin, Tennessee, where he lived with his wife.
At least $21,000 of the stolen funds went to a down payment on a luxury Lexus, according to court documents, and another $21,452 was used to pay for a 4.3-karat diamond ring. Hampton also used stolen cash to play the lottery, prosecutors said, “often spending between $1,000 and $1,500 per day on lottery tickets.”
Hampton is charged with wire fraud and money laundering and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. His wife is charged with money laundering and faces up to 10 years.