A woman who pleaded guilty Friday to stealing more than $500,000 from an elderly man with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease will be sentenced to three years of felony probation and is ordered to pay full restitution. Rosemary Baugh, 57, was charged with financial elder abuse and perjury, and faces 11 years and eight months in prison if she doesn’t comply with the terms of her plea deal.
Prosecutor Brian Cota explained after Friday’s hearing that while the probation sentence may seem somewhat lenient (considering the circumstances of the crime and the amount of money involved), the victim’s family and the District Attorney’s Office agreed it made legal and financial sense because a good portion of the stolen money is recoverable, lengthy and costly civil cases will be avoided, Baugh suffers from mental health problems, and the victim would likely not want to see her imprisoned. “Notwithstanding those issues,” Cota said, “this would have been a prison case.”
Baugh was arrested November 27 after an investigation by the Santa Barbara Police Department’s Property Crimes Unit discovered she had taken a small fortune from the 80-year-old victim. Baugh became his caretaker following the death of his only local relative in 2011. The two had known each other for many years prior and lived together at one point approximately two decades ago. Once she became his caretaker, however, Baugh used the victim’s money to buy a mobile home, shop online, make multiple purchases per day from QVC and the Home Shopping Network, and pay for psychic services. When out-of-town relatives recently visited the victim, they found him sickly, malnourished, and living in squalor.
As part of her plea deal, Baugh agreed to relinquish ownership of the mobile home — worth approximately $250,000 — back to the victim and his family and vacate it within 30 days. Cota said Baugh had given her daughter $100,000 to purchase property in Texas and that those funds are in the process of being returned as well. Baugh must also provide a full accounting to a civil court attorney of how she spent and gave away the money, Cota said.
During her time as his caretaker, Baugh had married the victim — whose name The Santa Barbara Independent has decided not to publish out of consideration for him and his relatives — as a way to obtain more money from him. In court, she agreed she would annul the marriage, and drop a number of civil suits she had filed against the victim and his family when they tried to end the marriage themselves. “Although [the civil cases] were not meritorious,” Cota explained, “they would have taken time and money to resolve.” Baugh also pleaded guilty to perjury for stating in court documents that she and the victim lived as husband and wife for the last 32 years.
Before the victim was declared legally and mentally incompetent to care for himself and his finances — a doctor made the determination in April 2011 — he was very generous with his wealth, often giving to friends, charities, and nonprofits, Cota noted. If Baugh violates the terms of her probation or fails to meet the requirements stipulated in the plea deal, Cota went on, she will be sent to prison.