MOUNT VERNON —A Knox County couple has been indicted on theft charges after an investigation by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office found they stole close to $750,000 from a relative’s estate over several years.
Lisa Braniff, 59, of Mount Vernon, was indicted this week on two charges of theft, each a felony of the first degree, and one count of forgery, a second-degree felony. Her husband, Joseph Braniff, 63, of Mount Vernon, was indicted on two counts of theft, felonies of the second degree.
“Stealing from your own mom when she’s in a nursing home — what a wretched abuse of trust! A power of attorney is not a license for theft,” Yost said.
The charges come after an investigation by Yost’s Health Care Fraud Section was turned over to the Knox County Prosecutor’s Office for review. Prosecutors presented the case to a grand jury this week.
Lisa Braniff had power of attorney for her mother beginning in 2015. Shortly thereafter, Lisa Braniff and her husband began liquidating her mother’s assets, the investigation found.
Investigators said Lisa Braniff was supposed to be paying for her mother’s health care at a Central Ohio nursing home, but she stopped making payments. The nursing home is owed for years of providing care.
Lisa Braniff is accused of using her mother’s money to fund her own lifestyle, including purchasing a farm in Mount Vernon at 21419 Daniels Road.
Yost’s investigation began when, after the money ran out, Lisa Braniff was removed as caretaker of her mother. Attorney and master guardian Susan Wasserman was appointed guardian in 2018 and alerted authorities to the situation.
Braniff’s mother, who had severe dementia, died alone from COVID-19 in December.
After the grand jury returned charges Monday, authorities from the Knox County Prosecutor’s Office and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office raided the Braniffs’ farm and a court-ordered injunction froze their assets.
Attorney General Yost has resources and guides for those at risk of elder abuse and/or financial exploitation. Incidents can also be reported by calling 800-282-0515.