British Columbia

Trusted caregiver jailed for stealing $260K from elderly B.C. couple

Fifty-year-old Antonette Dizon of Burnaby pleaded guilty earlier this year to a single count of fraud over $5,000, admitting that she regularly withdrew $1,000 in cash a day from the couple's chequing and savings accounts.

Antonette Dizon sentenced to 12 months, to be followed by 18 months of probation

Antonette Dizon stole from the Abfalters over a 16-month period, usually taking $1,000 at a time. (Shutterstock)

A former caregiver who gradually stole $260,000 from an elderly Coquitlam, B.C., couple over a period of 16 months has been sentenced to a year in jail.

Fifty-year-old Antonette Dizon of Burnaby pleaded guilty earlier this year to a single count of fraud over $5,000, admitting that she regularly withdrew $1,000 in cash a day from the couple's chequing and savings accounts.

On Thursday, Provincial Court Judge Robin McQuillan sentenced Dizon to 12 months in jail, to be followed by 18 months of probation. The judge said Dizon is remorseful and has suffered serious consequences because of the media attention on her case, but that needed to be balanced with the fact that she took advantage of vulnerable people over a long period of time.

"She had unlimited opportunities to reflect on what she was doing and to correct or at least stop her conduct. She did not do so," McQuillan wrote.

Dizon began caring for the couple, Henry and Helen Abfalter, in September 2014, when they were both 86 years old and living in a retirement home, according to the sentencing decision. Both were in deteriorating health and needed help with their daily activities.

One of those activities was banking. At some point during her trips to the bank with Mr. Abfalter, Dizon memorized his PIN number.

The elderly man's health took a turn in December 2014, and he had to be hospitalized. Not long after that, Dizon slipped his debit card out of his wallet, and began making withdrawals from the couple's bank accounts.

Thefts happened daily

She often made daily withdrawals, usually to the maximum limit of $1,000, according to the decision.

Meanwhile, she continued to care for the couple, up until Mr. Abfalter's death in September 2015.

By then, the couple had become so close to their employee that Dizon's daughter sang at the funeral. Even after she started a cleaning business and stopped working for the Abfalters, Dizon kept up a relationship with Mrs. Abfalter and her family, and visited on Christmas and Mother's Day.

She also continued to steal from them.

Dizon was arrested after her last attempt to take money from the Abfalters' account. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

The crime was finally uncovered in April 2016, when the Abfalters' daughter learned that their bank account balance had dropped from $490,000 to about $200,000. She saw the regular withdrawals from ATM machines and called the police.

Dizon was arrested after she made one last attempt to withdraw money. She told police that she'd taken the money to provide for her children — she paid off her debt, bought a cleaning business, took the family on a trip to Disneyland and paid for tuition, a car and a bedroom furniture set for her daughter.

When Helen Abfalter learned of the theft, she refused to believe it at first, calling Dizon "the kindest person."

"She was devastated when she had to acknowledge Ms. Dizon as the perpetrator," McQuillan wrote in his decision.

The elderly woman died nine months after the crime was discovered.

"The last months of her life were overshadowed by this event and the efforts to attempt to recoup some of the lost funds," McQuillan said, referring to a victim impact statement prepared by Abfalter's daughter.

"She could not understand how to reconcile what Ms. Dizon projected — a good mother, church going and conscientious — with someone who could do something so dishonest and cruel."

Dizon had almost no money left by the time she was arrested. Her assets were seized to recoup the funds, but $105,000 is still outstanding, according to the decision.

As part of her sentencing, the judge issued a restitution order to pay the family back the remaining money.

About the Author

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay has more than a decade of experience in B.C. journalism, with a focus on the courts, health and social justice issues. She has also reported on human rights and crimes against humanity in Cambodia. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.