EBR deputies arrest Ascension woman in exploitation case

East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies Friday arrested a St. Amant woman accused of stealing more than $700,000 from her 86-year-old mother over a nearly 33-month span.

Deputies booked Pamela Austin, 64, 47128 Laurel Bridge, St. Amant, into Parish Prison on Friday on counts on exploitation of the infirmed.

The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office conducted the investigation and officials could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

In 2005, Elverine Austin, Pamela Austin’s mother, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and unknown to other family members, Pamela Austin obtained power of attorney for her mother in February 2009, according to a signed affidavit by Richard Alfred Pence Jr., Pamela Austin’s brother-in-law. In the affidavit, Pence is listed as Elverine Austin’s court-appointed curator.

The affidavit was signed Feb. 20 and an arrest warrant was subsequently issued for Pamela Austin.

One month after obtaining power of attorney, Pamela Austin cashed in one of her mother’s annuities at Regions Bank for $300,000 and used the money to buy a car and mobile home, the affidavit says.

Pamela Austin never moved her mother into the mobile home, and instead kept her in a nursing home, the affidavit says.

In April 2011, Pamela confided to her sister, Zelda Austin Pence, Richard Pence’s wife, that she had power of attorney for their mother and that she cashed the annuity, the affidavit says.

Also in April 2011, Pamela Austin admitted she bought annuities for Zelda Pence and Jim Austin, their brother, for $100,000 each, the affidavit says.

Zelda Pence later found paperwork for the annuity that showed the amount was $366,437.99.

From Jan. 23, 2009, to Oct. 19, 2011, when Pamela Austin had power of attorney over her mother’s assets, she withdrew $349,036.35 from her mother’s credit union accounts, the affidavit says.

According to the affidavit, Pamela Austin became a “shopaholic” after obtaining the power of attorney and purchased hundreds of items from television shopping networks. She has not worked since 1994 and had no other means of support, the affidavit says.

At an interdiction hearing on Oct. 13, 2011, 19th Judicial District Court Judge Timothy Kelley voided the power of attorney agreement after Dr. Brian Murphy testified that, “Elverine Austin’s illness/condition clearly interfered with her ability to make reasoned decisions about her care and property.”

If convicted, Pamela Austin faces a fine of up to $10,000 or up to 10 years in prison.