Julie Cromer, a 48-year-old fugitive who financially exploited a 77-year-old female Santa Barbara resident, was arrested Wednesday at a Norwalk, Massachusetts residence.
Convicted of financial elder abuse in Santa Barbara County, Cromer failed to appear for sentencing last October and a warrant was issued for her arrest. Authorities discovered she left the country for about one month and was likely living in Massachusetts. “She was in Munich, Germany and possibly other places in Europe,” Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kelly Hoover told The Santa Barbara Independent via email.
Cromer met the victim — whom authorities didn’t name — in 2007 at a pug dog rescue event. “Cromer told the victim she was a struggling photographer,” said Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kelly Hoover in a statement. Cromer and victim developed a relationship in which Cromer visited the victim in Santa Barbara several times per year.
The victim later began paying for the visits by opening a credit card in Cromer’s name. Unbeknown to the victim, Cromer opened a second account for personal travel and leisure expenses — in Texas, Arizona, and Massachusetts — all charged to the victim’s checking account from 2013-2014. The manager at Northern Trust Bank in Santa Barbara noticed Cromer’s suspicious banking activity when Cromer altered the credit card and bank statement mailing address to her own address.
Cromer is currently being held at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Framingham, located between Boston and Worcester, and will be extradited back to California on a governor’s warrant or her waiver of extradition. Originally, she faced 60 days in County Jail, felony probation, and $10,000 in restitution.
Authorities believe Cromer stole much more money but can’t prove so because the victim died unexpectedly in July 2015 during investigation. Cromer’s failure to appear in court leads to an additional felony charge. If convicted, she may face jail time beyond that assigned for the elder abuse charge, said the Sheriff’s Office.
In 2012, Cromer first visited the Woods Hole Inn at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where she took pictures of an Internet sensation — a red chair first photographed in 2011 by innkeeper Beth Colt. Colt’s picture went viral, prompting Cromer to contribute red chair pictures to the inn’s blog, Red Chair Travels.
“In addition to the photographs she did for the Red Chair Travels blog in 2012, she visited us for long periods of time in the winters of 2013 and 2014,” said Colt. On U.S. B&B’s 2015 top-10 list, rooms at Woods Hole Inn average $300 a night.