Sonora, California – Tuolumne County District Attorney Cassandra Jenecke announced today that Jessica Corbin Lack, 51, of Pleasanton, California, was sentenced to 10 years in state prison after pleading guilty to a felony violation of Penal Code section 459, First Degree Residential Burglary, and six counts of Penal Code section 530.5, identity theft, for crimes committed in late 2018. Although Lack was not convicted of any counts related to financial elder abuse, this case involved a victim, Beverly Ryan, who was 70 years old at the time of the offenses. Due to the age of the victim, Assistant District Attorney Eric Hovatter, who handles all elder abuse cases for the Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office, prosecuted the case for the People.
Lack’s criminal conduct was as follows: In October 2018, Tuolumne County resident Ms. Ryan left the county for a trip overseas to New Zealand. She entrusted Lack, who was living in a nearby residence with her boyfriend, to get her mail and start her car periodically. During her trip, Ms. Ryan noticed charges on one of her gas cards. Lack communicated with Ms. Ryan several times during the trip and told Lack that she had an aunt who was the wife of the US Ambassador to New Zealand. Lack falsely told Ms. Ryan that Lack’s aunt wanted to treat Ms. Ryan to a spa treatment in Rotorua, a town famous for thermal baths. On December 9, 2018, Ms. Ryan returned from her trip and noticed items out of place in her house, including a safe that had been pried open. Ms. Ryan immediately called Lack and the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy came and walked through the house with both Ms. Ryan and Lack, and noticed many items had been stolen including cash, jewelry, liquor, and other items. One of Ms. Ryan’s purses, that had contained her charge cards, had also been moved. The deputy noticed an open window that Lack said she had not touched and Lack gave a statement that indicated she had not noticed anything unusual during Ms. Ryan’s absence.
Ms. Ryan indicated that substantial amounts of cash had been stolen from her safe and from inside her residence. She began to check her charge cards and noticed many purchases at both local businesses and business in Oakdale, initially totaling approximately $6,000. As the investigation continued Ms. Ryan began to suspect Lack was behind the thefts when she found a $2000+ charge occurring in the Pleasanton area, where Ms. Lack frequently cared for her own elderly mother. Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Detective Richard Donaldson, who conducted the bulk of the investigation, began to collect surveillance video from local businesses and those videos showed Lack as being the person making the charges. Ms. Ryan also determined that Lack had used Ms. Ryan’s charge card to pay for the “complimentary” spa treatment in New Zealand. Additional investigation determined that Lack had purchased furniture using Ms. Ryan’s card and had paid $6000 cash for a Land Rover down in the Pleasanton area during Ms. Ryan’s trip. In addition, Lack had made $1,307 worth of transactions at Rite-Aid. In total, Ms. Ryan lost over $8,000 in cash and approximately $100,000 in jewelry from her safe, plus other personal possessions. None of the stolen items were ever recovered and Lack did not disclose to authorities what she did with the cash, the jewelry, or the items she purchased with Ms. Ryan’s charge cards.
Although the conduct resulted in great financial loss, only the charge of First-Degree Residential Burglary made Lack eligible for state prison. Recent changes in the law have made convictions for financial elder abuse and identity theft ineligible for state prison sentencing. Those crimes now only allow for incarceration in county jails through “local prison” sentences or grants of felony probation. Moreover, the legislature eliminated conduct-based sentencing enhancements for large amounts of theft so Lack was not subject to any possible sentencing enhancement despite Ms. Ryan’s loss of over $100,000.
For More Information Contact
Eric Hovatter, Assistant District Attorney
Phone: (209) 588-5450