A Logan woman convicted of stealing more than $100,000 from people with mental and physical disabilities appeared in 1st District Court for sentencing Tuesday but she will not be going to jail right away.
Irene Marie Hendrix, 49, pleaded guilty last month to three counts of unlawful dealing with property by a fiduciary, a second-degree felony; and two counts of unlawful acquisition of a financial card without consent, a third-degree felony.
“You took advantage of the most vulnerable people we have,” said Judge Brian Cannell.
Hendrix was employed by Cache Valley Payee to manage the financial affairs of about 44 people with disabilities.
Instead of paying their rent and other critical expenses, police say the woman funneled their money into her own accounts and used their credit cards to her own benefit without their knowledge or permission.
In some cases, the victims do not even understand what happened, although it has put their families in a place of hardship, said owner Alan Allred.
A Brigham City woman spoke in court during sentencing Tuesday, saying her son was one of the victims.
“We’re supposed to have peace of mind when we think someone is looking after our kids,” she said.
Her son has a serious mental illness. After spending some time in a group home, he was working towards getting his own apartment. Hendrix reportedly told him she was setting aside some funds to help him set up his own house when he moved into an apartment.
Instead, he moved into an empty apartment with absolutely nothing and when he was told that his money had been stolen, it triggered a major setback in his condition, the woman said.
Allred said he discovered the misuse of funds when a father reached out to him to find out where his daughter stood financially before the family made some changes in her living arrangements.
Allred first asked Hendrix for the information and when she did not respond in a timely manner, he started looking at the client’s account himself and encountered a number of things that immediately made him suspicious.
During the last eight months, Allred said he has come out of retirement to work full-time in an attempt clear up all of the problems with his clients’ accounts. The company is being watched closely, and at this point, he said he isn’t sure he will be able to keep the business afloat after it is all said and done.
“This would have been a prison case, but we don’t have the same approach that we used to,” said Cache County prosecutor Barbara Lachmar.
While she and the judge agree that jail time is necessary in this case, Hendrix has health issues that may be problematic for jail staff.
For now, Cannell has sentenced the woman to concurrent sentences that amount to between 1 and 15 years in the Utah State Prison. Her prison sentence was stayed and instead, she will be on probation for 36 months. During that time she has to complete 150 hours of community service.
Jail time remains up in the air.
Cannell said his preference would be for her to serve 60 days in jail, followed by 120 days in home confinement.
However, if the jail staff is unable to care for her medical needs, it may be necessary for Hendrix to serve out all of her sentence in home confinement, and in that case she could serve as much as one year.
A review hearing will be held in two weeks, allowing her attorney time to work with the Cache County Sheriff’s Office and work out the details for her incarceration.