A Long Beach man accused of stealing approximately $1 million during a 15-month period while he worked as an in-home caretaker for an elderly couple in Orange County pleaded not guilty last week.
Ignacio Conlu Barandiaran, 35, was charged last Tuesday with 16 felony counts of caretaker theft of an elder 65 years and older, and one felony count each of first-degree burglary and elder neglect. The charges include 18 sentencing enhancement counts of property damage over $65,000 and 18 counts of aggravated white collar crime over $100,000, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
The wife died last summer and the husband, who was 88 and suffered from dementia, died this summer.
Barandiaran, who was arrested by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department November 13, may face up to 25 years in prison if found guilty.
Authorities said that between December 2015 and March 2017, the defendant is accused of clearing out his bank accounts and burglarizing his home using the money and credit cards to purchase food, gasoline, narcotics and other items for himself. Bank officials reported the transactions on the victim’s account claiming they were suspicious.
“He’s been extremely busy,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche said. “He’s been a one-man crime wave.”
Barandiaran is further accused of having the victim sign over his power of attorney to him, which medical experts later determined the victim did not have the mental capacity to do, taking out a reverse mortgage and then attempting to sell the victim’s Mission Viejo home without his knowledge.
“He had absolutely no capacity to make those decisions,” Labreche said. “There were methamphetamine users going in and out of there, (the husband) was in a soiled diaper and the house was completely trashed with feces on the floor from dogs.”
According to Labreche, the Orange County Public Guardian has taken control over the estate adding that the male victim’s estranged adult daughter from a prior marriage recently got “back in the picture”.
Four cases are still pending against Barandiaran including driving with a suspended license, drug possession charges and leading police on a chase in June that resulted in identity theft and property damage charges.
Barandiaran is due back in court for a pretrial hearing on December 13.
City News Service contributed to this report.