Authors: Christine Hsu
(BATON ROUGE, La.) -- A Louisiana man with Alzheimer's disease has filed a lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase, claiming an employee stole over $100,000 from his accounts and the bank refuses to give it back.
Herman Lafayette, 84, and his granddaughter, Laadonis Williams, who is his curator, filed suit in late June in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
The suit claims a Chase bank employee at a branch in Jefferson Parish "took advantage" of the fact that Lafayette was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2008. He was interdicted, or legally declared that he could not attend to his personal affairs, in March 2010, when his granddaughter was appointed his curator. The two have lived together in Baton Rouge for the past three years.
The suit states that the family discovered that over $100,000 was missing around July 2011, which included over $300 withdrawn per day from an ATM machine in Jefferson Parish, La. over the course of a year and $23,369.19 was withdrawn through another account.
"A significant amount of the money stolen from Mr. Lafayette's account by the bank employee were monthly payments from the United States Social Security Administration, which at all relevant times were being direct deposited in these accounts," the suit states.
The other source of Lafayette's money had been his retirement as a forklift driver and maintenance worker in New Orleans and funds from the loss of his home and property after Hurricane Katrina.
The lawsuit is suing for negligence, breach of contract and breach of duty, fraud, unjust enrichment, among other actions and seeks damages for complications and punitive damages.
After first being suspicious of family members, Williams, 25, said the bank told her that an employee stole the money. But Williams does not know if one or more employees were allegedly involved in closing up accounts and assigning themselves to a debit card attached to Lafayette's account.
Karen Hayes Green, the attorney for Williams and Lafayette, said she requested information in a letter from the bank in October 2011 to determine if a formal investigation had begun. But she said she was rejected for privacy reasons.
"[Lafayette] might have known his name but we don't know that," Hayes Green said. "And we can't get this information at this time. The bank knows this information."
The suit states that the bank "provided little or no information," though it had assigned an investigator to look into the missing funds.
When Williams went to the bank to inquire about the investigation, the investigator allegedly stated, "Mr. Lafayette still alive?" the suit states.
A spokesman for Chase said the company just received notice of the lawsuit and declined to comment about its allegations.
"We take these matters very seriously and will investigate," he said in a company statement.
Williams and her nine brothers and sisters are originally from New Orleans but separately moved to various locations after Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.
A teacher's assistant who works with children in special education, Williams said she decided to live with her grandfather after her family left him in a nursing home after the hurricane. Her mother, who died when she was five years old, was Lafayette's only biological child. Now her grandfather is her only link to her late mother.
"All I know about my mom's side of the family is what he talks about," Williams said.
When her grandfather noticed the money was initially missing, he accused members of the family of stealing it. Then family members began accusing each other.
Williams said one reason why the rest of her family does not spend time with her grandfather is that "he still brings it up."
"He still says, 'They stole all my money.' He's 84-years old with Alzheimer's and dementia," Williams said. "After all the dirt and accusing, nobody wanted to be bothered with him."
But after pressing the local bank, Williams was told it was an "inside job."
"I'm positive it's someone from the company," she said.
Williams said the missing money has "ripped our family apart" and now "something has to be done about it."
"Everyone was pointing fingers," she said. "He pointed fingers at people when, all the time, it was inside the bank."
Green has bank statements that indicate the ATM transactions and bank transfers and now she hopes to recover the money that was stolen from her client.
"If you can't trust your money with the bank or a bank employee who can you trust it with?" Green asked.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio