Former Cloquet police officer charged with exploiting vulnerable adult

 

July 21, 2023



Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Friday, July 21, that his office has charged Laci Marie Silgjord with financially exploiting a vulnerable adult.

According to the news release below, Silgjord met the now-deceased 78-year-old victim through her employment as a then-Cloquet police officer. Four months after meeting the victim, Silgjord represented herself to a bank as the victim’s fiduciary, despite no legal authority for this role, and gained access to the victim’s bank accounts. After knowing the victim for approximately five months before the victim passed away, Silgjord attempted to inherit the victim’s entire estate, despite the victim having surviving family.

The Attorney General’s Office charged Silgjord by criminal complaint in Carlton County District Court with one count of felony financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, one count of gross misdemeanor financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, and one count of felony attempted theft by swindle.

Pursuant to Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. § 8.01), the Carlton County Attorney’s Office referred this case to the Attorney General’s Office. The case was then investigated and prosecuted by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) in the Office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office has original criminal jurisdiction over Medicaid fraud; MFCU also prosecutes the abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults upon referral from a county attorney.

As outlined in the three-count criminal complaint, Silgjord first met the victim in May 2020 when Silgjord responded to the victim’s residence for a call regarding a stolen purse. By January 2021, Silgjord had attempted to obtain the victim’s entire remaining estate despite the victim having surviving family and no written estate plan awarding anything to Silgjord. This was despite a Cloquet Police Department policy that in order to “avoid actual or perceived conflicts of interest members of this department shall refrain from developing or maintaining personal or financial relationships with victims, witnesses or other individuals during the course of, or as a direct result of, any official contact.”

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Timeline of the accusations

Then-Officer Silgjord first encountered the victim on May 5, 2020, when she responded to a call about a stolen purse. On June 2, 2020, Silgjord performed a welfare check at the victim’s house upon the request of the victim’s half-brother. Silgjord and other officers conducted a second welfare check on August 25, 2020, when they found the victim in very poor condition, including that she had suffered a stroke and had deficits in memory and attention. The victim was immediately transported to the hospital.

On September 4, 2020, the hospital petitioned for guardianship for the victim due to “severe memory and orientation deficits which make her unable to make higher level decisions about her medical care.” At a court hearing on the guardianship, Silgjord stated that a social worker at the hospital asked Silgjord to be the victim’s guardian. The Court appointed Silgjord as guardian on September 11, 2020, which allowed her to perform duties related to personal care and custody. Silgjord was never appointed as a conservator to make financial decisions for the victim or manage the victim’s money, however.

Throughout September 2020, Silgjord recorded multiple bedside conversations with the victim. During one conversation, the victim said she did not know where she was, did not know her maiden name, did not know her father’s name, and did not remember how old her son was when he died. Silgjord also showed the victim a photograph of herself when she was younger; the victim did not recognize herself. During this conversation, Silgjord told the victim that she was her “new grandma” and that she loved the victim. The victim responded that she loved Silgjord and that she wanted to take care of her.

In late September 2020, Silgjord presented guardianship paperwork to the victim’s bank. She documented on a form titled “Fiduciary Accounts Application & Agreement” that she was the victim’s fiduciary and that she had the authority to access the victim’s accounts.

Medical records in October 2020 documented the victim’s continued regression, and at times noted she was hallucinating. On October 28, 2020, the victim passed away with no surviving children and no will. Silgjord did not notify the victim’s estranged husband and next of kin about the victim’s death.

Shortly after the victim’s death, Silgjord met the victim’s estranged husband at a restaurant. The Court’s order appointing Silgjord as guardian indicated that her guardianship expired upon the victim’s death — yet Silgjord claimed to the victim’s estranged husband that she was “in charge” of ensuring the victim’s wishes were carried out. Silgjord also refused to give the estranged husband the keys to the victim’s house. When the estranged husband asked Silgjord about submitting paperwork to access the victim’s bank accounts, Silgjord responded that he could “probably not” do this “because I am on the account.”

On November 24, 2020, the victim’s estranged husband went to the victim’s house, where he encountered Silgjord. Silgjord falsely claimed she had a guardianship and conservatorship over the victim, refused to provide him the keys, and said that she would not do so “until the courts make me sign it over.”

On December 18, 2020, Silgjord filed a petition seeking to be appointed personal representative of the victim’s estate. Silgjord claimed the estate was indebted to her for guardianship expenses. Some of compensation sought by Silgjord included time she supposedly spent on the guardianship while Silgjord was on duty as a police officer.

On January 28, 2021, Silgjord filed a claim against the victim’s estate for $71,601.58, which she estimated to be the estate’s total value. In describing her claim, Silgjord wrote “Prior to Joan’s death she told me she loved me & wanted to take care of me & my family. I was Joan’s friend & court appointed guardian.”

On March 9, 2021, Silgjord filed a second claim seeking an additional $86,611.70 from the estate, which represented the total of the inheritance the victim was set to receive from her stepmother’s estate. In describing this claim, Silgjord wrote, “I was Joan’s court appointed guardian & took care of her prior to her death. There is no formal will but Joan told me & my husband she loved us and wanted to take care of us. I have this recorded on my cell phone.”

The Court denied Silgjord’s claims against the victim’s estate. Silgjord’s employment as a Cloquet police officer ended in June 2022.

This case was investigated and prosecuted by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) in the Office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. The Minnesota MFCU receives 75 percent of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling $3,854,024 for Federal fiscal year (FY) 2023. The remaining 25 percent, totaling $1,284,670 for Federal fiscal year (FY) 2023, is funded by the State of Minnesota.

 
 

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