Paying the Price for Exploiting the Elderly

A longtime South Florida criminal is on his way to state prison tonight. He has admitted he took advantage of elderly homeowners by charging big bucks for bogus yard work. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero first broke the story, and is back on the case with the conclusion.

WSVN — It was October of 2012, and before dawn one morning, the Broward Sheriff’s Office was after a ring of tree trimmers and landscapers targeting the elderly.

Among those charged, 66-year-old William Tinnell, accused of taking advantage of Seymour, an 87-year-old retired insurance agent.

Seymour: “What, did I make a check out for $1,200?”

Pamella: “Yeah.”

His niece Pamella asked we only use their first names to protect Seymour. She discovered he had been paying thousands for landscape work on his modest yard where there seemed to be no proof of yard work improvements.

Pamella: “I’m devastated and I’m sad that people are coming in and literally using him as a meal ticket.”

William Tinnell: “I do.”

In court, Tinnell admitted to exploiting Seymour and an 81-year-old woman. In a plea deal, he was sentenced to four years in state prison. At a trial, he could have gotten 15.

Before accepting the plea, the judge reviewed Tinnell’s arrest record.

Judge Lisa Porter: “Adjudicated you guilty of exploitation of the elderly on May 29th of 2004.”

It’s a record that goes back over a decade, and includes everything from grand theft to four other charges of elderly exploitation. But this will be the first time he serves prison time. It’s a message for others not to exploit the elderly.

Jared Silver: “And that’s go to prison for their crimes, and if you try to go after the elderly and steal their money and think that no one’s paying attention, that’s not true. We are paying attention, and we’re gonna try to get you.”

Legal documents reveal an associate was recorded describing Tinnell’s methods. He said:

“Well, we go around and bang on doors … we end up doing work for them; they pay us for that work. We go back the next day and go to try to get paid for the work again … with a different person goes back, and if she goes, ‘Oh, oh, OK’ and writes the check then (we) know she has some kind of Alzheimer’s … then they send another person back the next day.”

Pamella says that’s what was happening to Seymour.

Pamella: “You can always want more, but I am pleased, you know. I am pleased that justice got served with him.”

Carmel Cafiero: “Before being led off for his trip to state prison, Tinnell had a request. He wanted to be released for three days in order to visit a sick relative and see a newborn grandson. Judge Lisa Porter did not hesitate … in denying the request. Carmel Cafiero 7 News.”


Miami-Dade: 305-627-CLUE
Broward: 954-921-CLUE


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