Woman sentenced in Chippewa County for exploiting elderly mother-in-law
MONTEVIDEO — A Montana woman pleaded guilty Thursday to using her mother-in-law's assets to support her own lifestyle while the elderly woman was evicted from a nursing home.
Martina Annette Christie, 61, of Billings, Montana, entered an Alford guilty plea in Chippewa County District Court in Montevideo. In an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence for a likely conviction.
Christie had been charged with 12 felonies for financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult or aiding and abetting financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.
In a plea agreement, the charges were consolidated into two felonies, one for financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and one for aiding and abetting financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Christie pleaded guilty to both of them.
Christie's husband, Michael Scott Christie, 63, of Lame Deer, Montana, was sentenced in late October on two felony charges of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, his mother who lived in Clarkfield.
Martina Christie was granted a stay of imposition of her sentence. That means the convictions could be considered misdemeanors if she successfully completes probation.
The couple was accused of exploiting Christie's mother's estate for $340,000. She died in February 2015 and had been evicted from the Clarkfield Care Center for non-payment in late 2014. She had accumulated over $72,000 in expenses.
The criminal complaint says Michael and Martina Christie paid the Care Center only $200 during that period, while they spent over $6,000 on clothing for themselves and wrote themselves $6,000 worth of checks.
According to court records, Martina Christie was ordered to serve 210 days in the Chippewa County Jail, with credit for 139 days already served on the financial exploitation charge. She received an 18-month prison sentence that was stayed for five years.
On the aiding and abetting charge, she was given the same jail time, to be served concurrently, and a 42-month prison sentence, stayed for five years.
On both charges, she was ordered to serve five years probation with a number of conditions including not serving in any fiduciary capacity while on probation. She was ordered to pay restitution and court fees of $42,442.70.
The criminal complaint against the couple alleged that they stole $340,000 in money and land from Michael Christie's mother's estate.
They allegedly used more than $40,000 of her financial resources for their own lifestyles. Court documents also alleged that Michael Christie transferred two parcels of Chippewa County farmland worth a combined $300,000 to Martina Christie for consideration of less than $500.