Two women, one with dementia, lose $57,000 in alleged fraud

Pierce County authorities have accused Dayton James Dixon, 34, of stealing more than $57,000 from a 73-year-old woman and an 86-year-old woman with dementia.

Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist filed six counts of theft in the first degree and three counts of theft in the second degree against Dixon on Sept. 6. He pleaded not guilty.

The county’s elder fraud unit will “aggressively prosecute those who exploit some of our most vulnerable victims,” said Lindquist.

According to authorities, Mildred Zolman, 86, suffers from dementia and significant memory loss and lives alone in Tacoma. Her son, Gary Zolman, was appointed power-of-attorney for his mother after she had surgery. He discovered she had written eight large checks to “Dayton’s Landscaping” between November 2011 and December 2012 totaling approximately $50,000. Dixon is the owner and operator of Dayton’s Landscaping, prosecutors said.

Gary Zolman and police officers noted that his mother’s yard was standard with no extravagant landscaping. Investigators confirmed that yard care for the property would cost less than $3,000 a year, authorities said. They added that Mildred Zolman doesn’t remember writing checks to Dixon.

Puyallup resident Ruby Chase, 73, also lives alone. Prosecutors give this account of the alleged theft committed against her:

On June 26, 2011, Chase agreed to hire the defendant to “fix her yard” for $17,000. She told police she was afraid of him at first, but she gave him a deposit in the amount of $8,500. The defendant cashed the check and never returned to complete the work. Chase repeatedly called him. He told her he would return the money, but never did.

Dixon was arraigned in Pierce County Superior Court. After his plea of not guilty, bail was set at $50,000.

Elder fraud occurs when older adults, who sometimes are more likely to say yes to a solicitation, are persuaded into giving away money, property or valuable personal information. Elder-fraud experts say criminals assume elders who report such a crime will be unable to remember important details that could lead to an arrest.