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April 24, 2014

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Court-appointed guardian used wards’ funds to stoke gambling addictions, authorities say

Updated Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013 | 4:29 p.m.

A Clark County Family Court-appointed private guardian is accused of stealing nearly $200,000 in cash and jewelry from four of her wards to help stoke gambling addictions, court and police documents show.

Patience Marie Bristol, 38, was charged Thursday in Las Vegas Township Justice Court with 15 counts, including exploitation of the elderly, exploitation of a vulnerable person, obtaining money under false pretenses and burglary.

Bristol, a private professional guardian, is accused of embezzling nearly $150,000 in cash and pawning more than $47,000 worth of jewelry from four people – a 64-year-old woman and her 79-year-old husband, a 55-year-old man and a 50-year-old woman – whose fiscal affairs she was managing.

The crimes are alleged to have taken place between Jan. 17 and July 16, according to the criminal complaint filed by the Clark County District Attorney's Office.

According to documents made public today:

• Bristol embezzled more than $100,000 from bank accounts she oversaw for the elderly couple. The court appointed Bristol to manage the couple's personal and fiscal affairs on March 4 after the 64-year-old woman suffered a stroke, was hospitalized and unable to communicate. The woman's 79-year-old husband suffered from advanced dementia.

• Bristol embezzled more than $38,000 from a 55-year-old man who in 2010 was judged to need a guardian due to "certain medical conditions." Despite managing the man's personal and fiscal affairs, Bristol visited the man only once during a 14-week period earlier this year.

• Bristol embezzled more than $5,400 from a 50-year-old woman who the court determined was mentally unable to manage her personal and fiscal affairs.

• Additionally, Bristol removed personal property, including 57 pieces of jewelry, belonging to the 55-year-old man and the 50-year-old woman in January from a guardianship business. Bristol subsequently pawned 67 items at nine different pawn shops. The estimated value of the jewelry was at least $47,000.

Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa said in a statement today that Bristol was not employed, affiliated or otherwise related with the Clark County Public Guardian when these actions allegedly took place. Rather, Pappa said, Bristol was functioning in the role of a court-appointed private guardian.

The Clark County Public Guardian’s Office, Pappa said, became involved in these cases when it received information about possible financial abuse from a U.S. Bank investigator. The bank had contacted the Public Guardian’s Office after first notifying a Family Court guardianship compliance officer, and the Public Guardian’s Office launched an investigation. The information later was submitted to Metro's Organized Crime Bureau. Family Court subsequently removed Ms. Bristol as the private guardian over the three cases and appointed the Clark County Public Guardian as the temporary guardian, Pappa said.

Bristol told police investigators in July, she had a gambling problem and had removed and spent much of the cash from the wards at bars around the Las Vegas Valley. Other money from the wards went toward her family's personal expenses.

Investigators found Bristol also spent $10,000 to pay her own mortgage, another $10,000 to pay rent unrelated to any of the wards, $2,400 for credit card bills and $1,400 to her unemployed boyfriend, who Bristol told police also had a gambling addiction.

In the case of the 79-year-old man with dementia, Bristol made notations on cash withdrawal slips saying the money was to pay for funeral and burial preneed expenses. Instead, she told police, the money went toward gambling.

An arrest warrant for Bristol was issued Thursday, and she was booked into jail Monday. She remains in the Clark County Detention Center, without bond. She is scheduled to make a court appearance at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.

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