Huberman said the woman and her victim were at a Social Security office preparing to register a change of address so his checks could be sent to her when police finally caught up with them.
"We couldn't prove financial exploitation because the victim was there and consented to these transactions," Huberman said. The woman was only convicted of a misdemeanor neglect charge for abandoning the man at the hotel, but the judge — appalled by the circumstances — took the unusual step of giving her jail time for a first offense, Huberman said.
"It's definitely a growing problem," Huberman said. "It's only going to get worse, especially with the baby boomers and the tight economy."
Data collected by the Department of Criminal Justice Services shows that between 2001 and 2007, overall financial crimes in the state increased 8.6 percent; for victims 65 or older, the increase was 18 percent. The crime commission says another 2010 study of the financial exploitation of 54 Virginia seniors shows the average loss was nearly $88,000.
The state Department of Social Services also is seeing an increase in reports of suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of seniors and mentally incapacitated adults. The number of substantiated reports of financial exploitation increased from 756 in 2009 to 1,036 last year, adult services program manager Gail Nardi said.
"The majority of the cases involve a caregiver or family member, someone a person should be able to trust," Nardi said. "We've had cases where adult children have literally stolen the house out from under the parent. It's harrowing, and prosecutors find it difficult to gather enough evidence to prosecute successfully."
Officials say the statistics probably do not reflect the true scope of a problem widely believed to be underreported.
"Often a mother wants to protect a child or grandchild who is exploiting her," Nardi said.