Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Gold Bar man jailed for nest egg theft from mom, of Everett

by Matt Rosenberg May 14th, 2012

A Gold Bar, Wash. man named Michael Robert Downer is now serving a 45-day jail term for felony first degree theft after without authorization he spent at least $13,735 on himself from a larger nest egg account that he jointly administered with and for his 80-year-old mother. She lives in a senior citizen apartment complex in Everett, and he was serving as a state-licensed nursing assistant for her at the time. Judgement and sentencing documents show Downer, 60 – whose registered voter address is a Gold Bar camping park populated with mobile homes – pled guilty on the felony theft charge in March of this year and began serving the sentence in mid-April.

A stipulated order of dismissal in a related civil case orders all funds in two of his accounts to be returned to his mother Christiane Raffard, now 82. According to a restitution agreement cited by Raffard and county officials, Downer had removed at least another $85,000 from the joint account for the care of Raffard. It has mostly now been returned to her under the civil settlement; but he still owes her $13,750, according to the agreement. His sentence requires the restitution be fully repaid within five years of his release. He had spent about $16,000 altogether from her nest egg funds before his accounts were frozen following the engagement by Raffard of an attorney for her civil action. Snohomish County prosecuted Downer on behalf of the state in the criminal case. He had no previous criminal record.

The affidavit of probable cause prepared by county prosecutors for charging him with felony theft says that according to Everett Police Department reports Downer without his mother’s permission made expenditures to benefit himself only from a retirement account he helped her open at Bank of America. Among unallowed personal expenditures he made from the account established to care for his mother were purchases at Poulsbo RV, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Everett West Marine, Port of Everett Marina, Lowe’s, Target, Half Price Books, and Scuttlebutt Brewing Co. in Everett. Raffard told police her son owns a boat, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit also states that according to police, Downer persuaded his mother to move to Everett from California so he could take care of her, and after setting up the joint account in April 2010, told an employee at her Everett apartment complex he had moved funds out of her account “only because she had too much money to qualify for a caretaker.” After making the $85,000 transfer from the joint account to his own in mid-May 2010, he one week later secured power of attorney, subsequently revoked, to oversee all banking and financial transaction’s for his mother’s “use and benefit.”

Reached by Public Data Ferret, Raffard, who speaks with a pronounced French accent, said she remained appalled at what had transpired. “He stole money from me. I will never forgive him. I’ll never forget what he did. I never raised him like that. From a son, you should not have this. I have nothing to do with him and when I die, my money goes to somebody else.”

Downer is also facing administrative charges of unprofessional conduct from the Washington State Department of Health for misappropriating funds from a patient under his care (Raffard). He got his nursing assistant license from the state in late September of 2006 and it expired in August 2011.

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