Elder Abuse

The Office of the District Attorney’s Family Protection Unit is responsible for the prosecution of elder and dependent adult abuse.

Penal Code Section 368 criminalizes the abuse of two separate groups of people – those aged 65 and older and those adults of any age who are classified as “dependent adults.”   The types of abuse included may be property-related and/or violence- related.  

The abuse may be;

  • Physical pain 
  • Mental suffering 
  • Endangerment (PC §368(b)(1)), as well as theft, identity theft, forgery, and fraud (PC §368(d) and (e)).   

There are special charges that can also be used when the victim is over 70 years of age or when there is great bodily injury inflicted.  The perpetrators are often in a position of trust and may even be family members.  These crimes, targeting the most vulnerable adults among us, are growing in severity and number as the population ages. 

Elder Abuse Forensic Center

The Office of the District Attorney participates in the Orange County Elder Abuse Prevention Coalition. The Coalition oversees the work at the nation’s first Elder Abuse Forensic Center, which started in May 2003.  This is a collaborative effort involving law enforcement, social service agencies, and the medical community of University of California at Irvine that assists in the goal of protecting the elder and dependent adult population from abuse. 

Serves law enforcement by providing medical experts, vertical prosecution, and experienced social workers to assist in identifying and prosecuting cases of criminal elder or dependent adult abuse. 
Educates the County’s law enforcement and prosecution community about how pervasive and large this problem is likely to become over the next twenty to forty years and to help us prepare for the future.   

For more information, visit their website at Elder Abuse Forensic Center.

People v. Crystal Mcpherson (2004)

Crystal McPherson was an employee of a local senior residential facility.  While employed, she befriended many of the residents and gained their trust. Ms. McPherson was able to endear herself to a 78-year-old female resident and, over a period of time, take her to the bank and withdraw and transfer large sums of money to her personal bank account. Estimated loss to the elderly victim who passed away shortly after the crime was discovered was $90,000.  Ms. McPherson pled guilty to felony theft by a caretaker from an elder after her preliminary hearing and was sentenced to 2 years in state prison.

People v. Sonia White (2004)

Ms. White was working as an in-home caretaker for an elderly widowed gentleman in Santa Ana. The elder’s health began to deteriorate and, during a family visit, his relatives noticed his cherished Marine Corps ring was missing.  The Santa Ana police located the ring at a pawn shop in Long Beach. The ring had been pawned by the suspect who had worked for the victim a short period of time.  Police recovered the ring and returned it to the victim, who passed away one hour after placing it back on his finger.  Ms. White pled guilty to a felony charge of theft from an elder by a caretaker and was sentenced to 2 years in state prison.

People v. Timothy Bena (2004)

Mr. Bena is the adult son of a 70-year-old woman. Mr. Bena had a history of alcohol abuse, mental illness, and verbal and physical abuse of his mother. The victim had been reluctant to report past incidents to law enforcement, insisting that her son just needed help. Eventually, Mr. Bena assaulted his mother by pulling her hair, verbally abusing her, pushing her into furniture, and not allowing her to leave the room or the house to get help.  After her son fell asleep, the victim was able to flee and call police.  Mr. Bena was charged with and pled guilty to Elder Abuse and False Imprisonment of an Elder. He was sentenced to 6 months in the Orange County Jail and placed on three years of supervised probation with conditions of one year of domestic violence counseling and alcohol testing, and a three year protective order to stay away from his mother’s house.

To report suspected elder abuse:

  • If this is an emergency, call 9-1-1

For a person living in the community call:

  • County of Orange Adult Protective Services - HOTLINE:
    (800) 451-5155
  • Adult Protective Services Eldercare Locator
    (800) 677-1116

For a person living in a care facility call:

  • Council on Aging – Southern California:
    (714) 479-0107


There is no easy solution for this situation because there are no defined standards for caregivers in California. While there are many agencies that will provide caregivers, there are no minimum qualifications or licensing requirements that will assist in determining whether any given agency will send out honest, caring, trustworthy individuals to care for your loved ones. You will have to personally get involved in selecting the caregiver and then monitor the work the person does.

Adult Protective Services (APS) is a division of the Orange County Department of Social Services. Their social workers exist to provide help as needed to elderly persons. Much of that help involves providing in-home care support. They can help arrange transportation, as well as provide other vitally needed services that can keep elder persons in their homes and apartments. APS workers have no police power, and cannot order an elderly person to do anything that the person does not want to do. The APS worker can also be the link to other agencies in the community that provide help to this population.