SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Like many Americans her age do each winter, Rosalie Achiu hopped on a flight to escape the cold for somewhere balmy. Achiu, a 75-year-old woman with dementia, was alone on her way to a tropical island less than a month after a series of bizarre incidents that seemed to stem from a seemingly routine welfare check by law enforcement.
In the weeks after the first visit by two Sacramento County sheriff deputies, Achiu’s home was suddenly put up for sale along with curious bank charges to a company called RushMyPassport and China Air.
Nine days after landing in the Philippines, Achiu was found by U.S. Marshals but she couldn’t explain how or why she left California.
Nearly two years after the impromptu flight, Achiu on Thursday sued the two deputies that came to her house along with a Sacramento attorney that she claims took advantage of her disability and conspired to wipe out her entire belongings.
“The deputies then removed Ms. Achiu from her home, obtained a power of attorney, took control of Ms. Achiu’s real property, personal property and bank accounts, emptied Ms. Achiu’s safe deposit box and then sent Ms. Achiu, unaccompanied, on a one-way flight to the Philippines,” Achiu claims in a lawsuit filed late Thursday in Sacramento County Superior Court.
Achiu says Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputies Stephanie Angel and Joseph Martin befriended her in January 2018 after responding to a welfare check call. According to the complaint, they returned the next day and again later that week in a patrol car to move Achiu to Angel’s home.
Over the next week, Achiu says the uniformed deputies took her to a doctor’s appointment and later to a Bank of America branch where they opened up joint accounts and even convinced the bank to empty her safe deposit box.
But most alarming, Achiu claims, is that somehow her house was listed for sale and her new realtor was Angel’s friend. To make matters worse, her house was “stripped down with a great deal” of her property tossed in the garbage.
Achiu, who was diagnosed with dementia prior to 2018, claims she then visited an attorney named Ernest Tuttle and legally assigned power over her personal affairs and health care to Angel and Martin. The documents were quickly notarized and Achiu says the deputies capped off the wild stretch by dropping her off at Sacramento International Airport, once again in uniform and in their patrol car.
“Defendant Angel and Martin, with the assistance of defendants Tuttle and [public notary] Anne Kirchner, were able to take over Rosalie’s bank accounts and withdraw several thousand dollars, access and empty Achiu’s safe deposit box, and list Achiu’s house for sale after removing her,” the nine-page complaint states.
Achiu is suing the sheriff’s department, the two deputies, Kirchner and Tuttle for financial and physical elder abuse, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and civil rights claims. Through her conservator, Achiu is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
According to local news reports from 2018, the department opened an investigation after Achiu was located and it placed Angel on administrative leave. The reports also cite neighbors who claim they saw Angel visit Achiu’s house multiple times and that the deputy told them Achiu was moving to an assisted living facility.
Achiu’s Sacramento area attorneys Heath Langle and Michael Abrate did not return phone calls after hours Thursday. The sheriff’s department declined to comment on the lawsuit, but spokesperson Teresa Deterding said the two deputies were fired in November 2018 after an “investigation into similar allegations as outlined in the lawsuit.”