An Austin, Texas-area pastor has been charged with stealing over $40,000 from an elderly woman suffering from dementia.
On Wednesday, police charged Pastor David DeFor of Austin Church of Christ (Christian) with four felony counts of financially exploiting a vulnerable adult after he and his wife allegedly befriended an 82-year-old elderly woman suffering from dementia years ago and later became her power of attorney.
Authorities are alleging that during DeFor's friendship with this woman, the pastor allegedly exploited the woman by receiving monetary payments which paid for a replacement furnace in the pastor's home and a trip for his wife to compete in a bowling tournament.
DeFor claims no wrongdoing, however, telling the Austin Daily Herald: "I don't have anything to hide … I haven't done anything wrong."
DeFor added in an interview with ABC 6 News that he is "100 percent innocent" and considers his charges to be "bogus."
According to the Post Bulletin, the court complaint filed Wednesday claims that DeFor and the woman met five years ago when they both served on the local Salvation Army Board, and DeFor became the woman's power of attorney in July 2010.
Following his acceptance as power of attorney over the elderly woman, authorities are claiming that several questionable transactions took place in which the woman gave large amounts of money to the pastor, his wife, and his church, even though she allegedly attended a different Episcopal congregation before meeting DeFor.
For example, the Austin Church of Christ (Christian) received $15,090 in donations from the woman, while Defor, 69, and his wife received a total of $11,000, including a $5,000 check which was used to replace DeFor's furnace and a $3,000 transaction into DeFor's bank account for a bowling trip to Nevada.
DeFor reportedly told investigators that the $3,000 spent on the bowling trip was an award on behalf of the woman as a "thank you" for his care.
Additionally, the complaint alleges that over $21,000 in cash withdrawals have left the woman's bank account since 2010 and have been used on expenses relating to DeFor.
According to the Austin Daily Herald, the Mower County Human Services contacted the local police after family members, who don't live nearby, became concerned for the woman back in April.
The complaint alleges other suspicious activity and includes statements from caretakers at the woman's group home who said she rarely gave gifts and often paid with a debit card as opposed to checks.
Additionally, those in charge of the group home reportedly told authorities that the victim was "very frugal" with her finances, according to the Post Bulletin.
According to the complaint, during the time DeFor served as the woman's power of the attorney, she changed her will in 2011.
Although the will initially left 50 percent of the woman's estate to her family, it was changed to leave 30 percent to her family and 25 percent to DeFor and his wife, as well as 15 percent to DeFor's church.
The Austin Daily Herald reports that in May the woman told police she belonged to Christ Episcopal Church, as opposed to DeFor's church, and normally was not one to give money away.
A hearing to address the possible revoking of this recently updated will is set for July 17, and DeFor has been stripped of his power of attorney.
DeFor continues to maintain his innocence, arguing that he never asked for money from the elderly woman and all of the money he did received were given as gifts for his service to her, which included driving her to and from doctors' appointments, church, and lunch.
If DeFor is found guilty of all four felony counts he could receive a maximum jail sentence of 20 years as well as $100,000 in fines.
According to the official website of the Austin Church of Christ (Christian), DeFor and his brother, Stephen DeFor, are both still listed as pastors of the congregation.