EVERETT – An Everett woman and her husband have been indicted on federal fraud charges based on allegations that the couple scammed their adoptive son out of the nearly $800,000 he received as part of a civil lawsuit settlement.
Federal prosecutors accuse Lori Wiley-Drones, 57, and her husband, Edward Drones, 61, of illegally taking control of their son’s trust account, the Daily Herald reported in Saturday’s newspaper. Prosecutors believe the couple spent all but $15 of the $775,252 the teen was awarded by the state of Alaska.
After an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service’s crime division and the Anchorage police, an Alaskan grand jury has indicted the couple on 24 counts of wire fraud. They face years behind bars if convicted.
The boy was placed in foster care shortly after he was born in 1990. The Droneses became his foster parents and then adopted him in 2001. A few years later, they filed a civil lawsuit on his behalf, alleging that the state failed to protect him.
The state settled the lawsuit in 2008. A judge appointed a third party to oversee the boy’s finances. He was about to turn 18, but the courts determined that he would need help managing his money.
Prosecutors allege that the couple tried to persuade the guardian to pay them more than $1,600 a month from their son’s account. Up until the boy turned 18, the couple had received about $1,600 a month from the state as part of an adoption subsidy, court papers said.
The guardian denied the request, saying that the teen already paid his parents $800 a month in rent. Additionally, he received $500 a month for personal expenses.
After a disagreement over a request from Wiley-Drones to have the teen buy her Everett home, the couple had the professional guardian removed and Edward Drones was allowed to take over his son’s finances in part because of lies they told the court, according to the indictment.
Once they were in control of their son’s money, they allegedly withdrew more than $220,000 to buy Wiley-Drones a house in Everett. They also allegedly bought vehicles totaling more than $49,000 even though their son didn’t have a driver’s license.
Prosecutors also say thousands of dollars were withdrawn to buy jewelry, pay off credit cards and for home improvements.