Montcalm County embezzlement case from 2020 finally went to trial

STANTON — Three Montcalm County residents charged with embezzling an elderly woman will finally go on trial next week after the coronavirus pandemic repeatedly delayed court proceedings.

Teri Miller

Teri Miller, 57, and her husband Kelly Miller, 57, both of Edmore, and Timothy Riva, 59, of Six Lakes, were tried by retired Montcalm County District Court Judge, Donald Hemingsen, in October 2020 after the judge heard more than 20 hours of testimony during a three-day preliminary examination.

The trio are due in court Monday in Montcalm County Circuit Court. The trial is expected to last up to two weeks, with a week off in between due to Circuit Court Judges Ronald Schafer and Suzanne Kreeger rotating between Montcalm and Ionia counties.

The Millers and Riva allegedly victimized 91-year-old Glenna Cowles, formerly of Belding, who lived with her daughter and son-in-law, Tim and the late Elisabeth “Betsi” Riva, and allegedly paid Tim’s sister, Teri, $1,000 a month. to be his guardian from 2016 to 2018.

Teri Miller is charged with two counts of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult (up to $100,000), three counts of using a financial transaction device without consent, using a computer to commit a felony, failure to report income and resisting or obstructing a police officer (resulting from his arrest for embezzlement).

Kelly Miller

Kelly Miller and Tim Riva are each charged with two counts of receiving and concealing and one count of failing to report or misrepresenting income, all in connection with the embezzlement case. .

Kelly Miller is also charged with an unrelated methamphetamine case in Montcalm County. According to the Montcalm County District Attorney’s Office, Kelly was driving when he was stopped by a Michigan State Police officer in Crystal Township on November 8, 2021. During the traffic stop, a small amount of methamphetamine was located.

Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Lippitt is prosecuting the embezzlement case in Montcalm County. Keeley Blanchard is Terri Miller’s attorney, Jeanne Reed is Kelly Miller’s attorney, and Kurt Petersen is Riva’s attorney.

CASE CONTEXT

During the October 2020 preliminaries, Lippitt summarized his case against Teri by pointing out that Cowles was a vulnerable adult as defined by state law and by Teri’s own admission – Teri told state police of Michigan, Lakeview Post Det. Ed Doyle in a taped interview that Cowles was confused, incoherent, had a poor memory, and took up to seven sleeping pills a day.

Timothee Riva

Cowles’ Discover Card account had $5,831 in purchases in 2016, but in 2017 that number increased eightfold to $39,673 after Teri gained access to the account — and that amount doesn’t include a total of $7,640 in multiple cash advances made by Teri from that account, according to Lippitt.

Teri visited the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mount Pleasant 37 times in October, November and December 2017 and bet $161,471 playing the slots – compared to 2018 when she no longer had access to the money of Cowles and only visited the casino four times, betting $16,515. , according to Lippitt.

Teri allegedly had Cowles sign several blank checks and gave a total of $9,000 to Teri’s husband, Kelly, $2,000 to Teri’s relative, Priscilla Farley, allegedly used a total of $6,000 to pay the rent of a house in Edmore where Kelly apparently lived, and used the consumer money. Energy bills and incremental car insurance, among multiple other purchases, according to Lippitt.

Cowles testified that she had approximately $130,000 in a bank vault before Teri gained access to it as Cowles’ power of attorney. Video footage from the Independent Bank in Belding shows Teri accessing Cowles’ vault six times in late 2017 – five of those times without Cowles present.

Blanchard argued that Cowles was living rent-free in Riva’s house and that it wouldn’t have been out of the question for Cowles to allow expenses, even if those expenses ended up costing more than Cowles had anticipated. or remembered.

According to Lippitt, Kelly Miller received a total of $9,000 from Cowles’ accounts. A video clip of Kelly cashing a $1,500 check from Cowles in December 2017 was shown in court. Lippitt said that although Kelly claimed Cowles asked him to cash the check for her and return the money, the check was dated December 20 and he did not cash it until December 27. Additionally, Cowles denied ever signing the check.

Edmore’s Teri Miller, right, was due to stand trial after Montcalm County District Court Judge Donald Hemingsen ruled in October 2020 that there was enough evidence to establish probable cause for the charges that Miller allegedly embezzled up to $100,000 from an elderly woman she worked for. . Miller’s attorney, Keeley Blanchard, is pictured at right. — Photo from DN file

Kelly also reportedly said on his tax return that he paid $650 a month in rent for eight months in 2017, but his former landlord said earlier this week the rent money came from Teri through Cowles’ account. .

Reed argued that the tax gap was an “innocent mistake” and that Kelly didn’t realize there was anything wrong with taking the $9,000 checks from Cowles.

Lippitt claims Riva bought dock materials from Menard in Mount Pleasant for more than $4,000 using his own card, but she said he had no way to actually pay for it and the charges — so that other charges on his card – have been paid. with silver from Cowles.

Another part of Riva’s case involved a headstone purchased for Riva’s wife, Betsi, who was Cowles’ daughter and died unexpectedly in October 2016.

Lippitt noted that although Riva claimed that Cowles wrote her a check for $2,000 with “Betsi’s stone” on the memo line, that check was never used to purchase a headstone. Rob Geers, chief financial officer of Patten Monument Company in Comstock Park, said the company never received any money from Riva and it was Cowles who ended up buying a headstone for his daughter with a £3 payment. $079.

Lippitt also noted that while Cowles said she agreed to help Riva buy a lawn mower, Riva asked her to write her a check for $3,000 – which was more than Cowles had expected. — but Riva later told an investigator that the lawn mower only cost $1,300.

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