Press Release: People v. Kelly, Debra Leigh, 2/17/11

February 17, 2011
R. Scott Owens

District Attorney


10810 Justice Center Drive, Suite 240
Roseville, California 95678


For Immediate Release
Date: February 17, 2011


Art Campos

Public Information Officer


Jeff Wilson

Assistant District Attorney




A 55-year-old woman who pretended to be a licensed vocational nurse was sent to the Placer County jail for nine months Wednesday and was ordered to pay back $240,000 to an 85-year-old Foresthill man whom she defrauded over a period of years.

Debra Leigh Kelly, who was also placed on four years probation, was given the sentence by Placer County Superior Court Judge Frances Kearney following her guilty plea to a felony count of theft or embezzlement from an elder.

Kelly had also pled guilty to misdemeanor counts of impersonating a licensed vocational nurse and practicing a trade without a valid license.

In a court hearing earlier this month, Kelly, who also resides in Foresthill, repaid $30,400 to the victim, leaving a balance of $209,600 that she must repay.

Kearney also banned Kelly from being in the presence of elderly adults unless there is a legal guardian or licensed caregiver there to supervise.

Prosecutor Jim Deslaurier said the case began in early 2005 when the victim hired Kelly to help care for his ailing wife. Kelly had falsely advertised herself as a licensed vocational nurse, Deslaurier said.

The victim’s wife died a few months later, but Kelly befriended the victim, telling him she was owed a significant amount of money from a civil lawsuit stemming from a horse-training accident.

Pending that settlement, Kelly said she needed a loan and she began borrowing money from the victim, telling him she would repay him as soon as her civil case was finalized. The loans continued for more than four years and the amount reached $240,000, Deslaurier said.

During that time, Kelly’s civil lawsuit settled, but she received significantly less money than she had represented to the victim, Deslaurier said.

“It amounted to just a couple of thousand dollars,” he said, adding that Kelly did not tell the victim about it and continued to borrow money from him.

Eventually, a member of the victim’s family learned of the loans and contacted Placer County Sheriff’s detectives, who investigated Kelly and forwarded their findings to the District Attorney’s Office. Charges were filed against Kelly last June.

At Wednesday’s sentencing, a granddaughter of the 85-year-old victim told Judge Kearney about the hardships that Kelly caused her grandfather.

She said her grandfather sold all of his stocks and investments to keep funding Kelly. He took out a $50,000 equity loan, couldn’t keep medical and dental appointments and kept the thermostat in his home at 58 degrees to keep heating costs low, she said.

“He slept in a parka coat at night and lived in multiple sweaters during the day due to the inability to afford propane for heat,” she said.

The victim applied for senior low-income programs to pay off other bills, couldn’t afford Christmas and birthday gifts for family members and sought out lower insurance coverage for his home and vehicle, she said.

The granddaughter said the victim “did not sleep well for five years” because of the money worries and the embarrassment and fear that other members of his family would find out that he had loaned out so much money.

“The hardest part for him was to realize that he was being lied to,” she told the court.