LAKELAND — Thanksgiving can be a time of great joy and happiness for so many, a time to reunite the entire family and use the gathering to say thanks for all that family means.
But not all people are celebrating the joy of family today. Just ask the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, which just arrested 18-year-old Micaela Meada of Lakeland, and her boyfriend, 21-year-old Teofilo Deaza. The charge: heading out on a spending spree at the expense of Meada’s elderly grandmother.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said credit for the arrest goes to the Wells Fargo bank for noticing the suspicious use of the elderly woman’s debit card, and quickly reporting it to law enforcement.
“Wells Fargo did a great job acting quickly in this case,” Judd said. “It is a pretty low down thing to steal from an elderly person — but especially from a 96-year-old woman who is your adoptive grandmother and who opened her home out of trust and willingness to help.”
Meada and Deaza were charged with fraudulent use of a credit or debit card three or more times, scheming to defraud, possession of a stolen credit card, grand theft from a person over 65, and criminal use of personal identification. According to the report by Scott Wilder, the public information officer for the sheriff’s office, Meada stole her grandmother’s Wells Fargo debit card, then she and her boyfriend began making purchases and withdrawals — without first getting her grandmother’s permission.
As Wilder noted in his report, the card was used at a food store where $43.54 got charged, and then at a Wells Fargo ATM. Altogether, Wilder noted, there was $343.54 withdrawn from the account.
“Fortunately, Wells Fargo noticed the suspicious activity and contacted the 96-year-old woman,” Wilder noted.
The bank then deactivated the card.
Working with the bank, Polk County detectives checked out photos taken from the video surveillance of the Wells Fargo ATM at 1414 South Combee Road in Lakeland.
“Both Micaela Meada and Teofilo Deaza were in the photographs making the withdrawals,” Wilder noted in his report. “Detectives learned through the investigation that the 96-year-old victim rarely used the ATM card and kept her pin number written down in her purse with the card because she had trouble remembering the number.”
What is particularly sad about this case, Judd noted, is that Maeda had been adopted by the elderly woman’s daughter, who has since passed away.
After Maeda turned 18, the sheriff’s office noted, she began to live on and off with her grandmother — the very woman she is now accused of stealing from.
Judd also praised his detectives for their work on this case.
“Our detectives did a great job working with the bank to bring a successful conclusion to this case,” he said.
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