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PCSO News Release

Media Contact:
Wood, Donna

Public Information Officer 
News Date: 1/30/2013 

 Polk County Sheriff’s Office Detectives Charge Two with Exploitation of Elderly 

On May 2, 2012, the Bank of America contacted Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives with concerns about the possible exploitation of a client, 88-year-old Lakeland woman.

“We will not tolerate the exploitation of our elderly citizens,” said Sheriff Grady Judd. “We have one of these low-down scoundrels behind bars and we won’t stop until we find the other one.  Taking advantage of innocent people will get you a ride to jail.”

A PCSO detective responded to the elderly woman’s residence and determined she was displaying early signs of dementia and that she lived alone. The detective contacted a professional guardian who ultimately became legally responsible for the elderly woman’s finances.    

Through the investigation, detectives learned that both 34-year-old Hamilton “James” Watson and his father, 58-year-old Hamilton “John” Watson, took advantage of the victim’s declining health and swindled large sums of money and a vehicle from the elderly woman.  Both father and son reside at 3741 Old Tampa Highway, Lakeland, with Jennie Watson, mother and wife of the suspects.

Detectives learned the exploitation began sometime in April when the two men met the victim advising her of work they could provide around her home.

Throughout April 2012, several checks were written on the victim’s account to “Sunny Florida Painting, with notations regarding “roof work” and “renovations.”  Neither suspect is licensed as a roof or construction employer or contractor. 

Detectives gathered evidence which reflected over a twelve day period, the suspects had a total amount of $120,575.00 written to them.  The suspects also obtained two more checks that “James” was unable to cash for the total amount of $93,267.85.  The total amount the suspects took or attempted to take was $213,842.85.

Detectives, working with various financial institutions since May 2012, were able to obtain sufficient evidence to obtain arrests warrants for both “James” and “John” Watson on Tuesday, January 29, 2013, charging both with Exploitation of an Elderly or Disabled Person, Scheme to Defraud, and Theft from a Person 65 Years of Age or Older. 

The victim currently receives around the clock home care and has been declared legally incapacitated. 

At approximately 6:30 pm, “John” Watson was arrested and booked into the Polk County Jail, where he is being held on a Nebbia Hold.   

Detectives are still looking for “James” Watson and have information that suggests he may be in Arizona at this time.

Anyone with information on James Watson’s whereabouts is urged to contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 863.298.6200.