SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Sarasota caregiver is accused of stealing more than $1 million from her 94-year-old client’s account before and after the woman died, according to the sheriff’s office.
Deputies said Anna Bullinger was hired by Peggy Nardone, who died in June of last year. When Nardone’s estate began consolidating accounts belonging to she and her husband, an attorney said he noticed several suspicious transactions that Bullinger had made and contacted the authorities.
Between Jan. 2015 and June 2019, deputies say Bullinger cashed 147 checks totaling more than half a million dollars. This included a $90,000 check, which was deposited on June 22, the day after Nardone died.
Authorities say a check was deposited into an account belonging to Bullinger’s daughter. The memo note said “gift.”
That $90,000 check is what started the investigation, according to Detective Carlos Verdoni.
“The way it appears, based on all the checks, I actually looked at every single check and it appears the signature is the victim’s signature every time,” Detective Verdoni said.
“So I don’t know if, I’m not clear if she gave her a blank check and said, ‘hey, pay this bill’ and she didn’t, or she gave her a blank check and say, ‘hey, I need to pay a bill, sign it and I’ll take care of it.’ That’s what we’re working on right now.”
News Channel 8’s Daisy Ruth spoke to Linda Howlett, a neighbor of Nardone.
“Peggy always wrote checks. That’s the way she paid her monthly fee. And it was her signature, her check and the caretaker would often say, ‘Well I can’t get it to you guys on time because Peggy can’t write her name today.’ But evidently, I guess the caretaker learned to do that signature,” Howlett said.
She confirmed she never saw Nardone and Bullinger together, but said the caretaker and her daughter often came and went.
Howlett recalled one instance where Bullinger “broke down crying” to her husband.
“She acted like, she had made a, I believe her words were ‘I made a pact with Peggy,’ or a vow or whatever you want to call it, ‘that I wouldn’t leave her until she died. So I’m stuck here,’ every day for 12 hours a day or whatever it was,” she said.
Investigators also suspect Bullinger transferred a trust account valued at $650,000 to her daughter in Jan. 2019.
Documents signed by the victim authorized the closure of her husband’s trust and instructed someone to dissolve the account and put $650,000 into Bullinger’s daughter’s account as a gift, according to detectives.
Investigators began reviewing transactions made from the victim’s account and noticed that she had written and signed checks until May, and that the signatures matched her handwriting, but the payable information did not.
Authorities say a total of $1,102,307 was stolen from the woman’s account.
Detective Verdoni confirmed Friday he has been able to recover about $740,000.
“You’re hiring [a caretaker] to help you with your day to day information, maybe go to the doctor, go to the bank, so you’re basically giving them a key to your life,” he said.
“And when they’re elder, you’re expecting that person to kind of take care of you. That’s why they’re a caretaker.”
On Tuesday, Bullinger, 55, was arrested and charged with one felony count of exploitation of the elderly over $50,000 and booked into the Sarasota County jail. She was released the same day on a $50,000 bond.
Deputies said Bullinger has several prior arrests for offenses including petit theft, grand theft and violation of probation.
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