Dubuque man charged with family theft

A man was arrested in Dubuque on a warrant for dependent adult abuse after allegedly stealing $36,749.82

Dubuque police arrested and charged 35-year-old Michael Woods on December 20, saying the large amount of money missing comes from his mother's social security checks.

Woods was charged more than two months after the Dubuque Police Department found the mother, Barbara Gebhardt, and Woods inside a first-floor apartment that was owned by a deceased landlord.

Court documents show on September 28, Dubuque Police received a report of people living in a residence at 2033 Washington Street that should have been vacant. Upon arriving, officers found Woods and Gebhardt on the lower level of the building.

Woods told police they have lived at the home for about 20 years, but an attorney for the deceased landlord said they had not received any payments since Thielen died in February 2017.

When an officer entered the home, they found it filled with what they called "trash and junk," adding it had a strong odor of "mold, rotting garbage, feces, and urine."

According to court documents, Gebhardt was found not wearing pants because she had "soiled them," and showed signs of malnutrition and dehydration. She then was transported to Mercy Medical Center for observation and treatment.

Days later, Gebhardt told police and the Iowa Department of Human Services her son uses her social security check for rent and groceries. According to the court documents, the water has been turned off since approximately May 30. Both Black Hills Energy and Alliant Energy told police the two accounts combined were more than $1,200 past due.

Police say approximately $36,749.82 is "unaccounted for."

Woods told police in an interview he used the money to pay for his travel expenses to visit Gebhardt when she was receiving treatment in 2017, and also "to purchase DVDs of televisoon series from Walmart since they did not have cable."

Experts say this is an important example why older people need to maintain relationships- from their friends to staff members at their bank.

"I say that to my mom all the time: make sure your bank is aware who has access to your account, and why, and when," said Donna Harvey, CEO of Northeast Iowa Area Agency of Aging. "If you have automatic withdrawals, let them know that. But again, I think it's about making partnership with everybody you can think of."

Harvey said she and everyone else has the responsibility to prevent elder abuse- and it makes things even more complicated when the families do not have a permanent address.

She said if things look out of the ordinary, often times that is when organizations can step in and help.

Woods was in jail as of December 26 with a bond set at $5,000.

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