TACOMA, Wash. -- More and more cases of elder abuse are coming to the forefront, and the Pierce County Prosecutor's office is taking measures to address the issue.
Since the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney's Office began tracking the numbers, it saw the number of cases referred and prosecuted rise from 19 cases in 2011 to 50 in 2013. In the last three years, at least 77 people have been convicted, with the majority of the thieves having no prior criminal history, but being someone the victim knows.
Robert Villegas said he turned to the county's Elder Fraud Unit when he realized his sister, Anna Sturtz, was stealing money from their father, Marian Villegas. Sturtz is now in jail after pleading guilty to multiple counts of theft.
"I think that resource needs to be out there for people, especially in my case, when you are so close. It's hard," said Robert Villegas.
With the prosecutor's office seeing more cases like Villegas’, it is in the process of increasing the number of staff to keep up with the case load.
"We're seeing referrals but not necessarily because there's more crime, but because more people know how to report now," said Mark Lindquist, Pierce County's Prosecuting Attorney.