By Gregory J. Lamoureux
EDITOR’S NOTE: This news story was originally published in the May 28th print edition of the County Courier. To subscribe and receive all of Franklin County’s news in one place, click here.
Two Swantonians were arrested on Friday following a multi-agency investigation into a financial exploitation of a 76-year-old man, according to court records which were filed on Tuesday morning.
Jacob Hodgdon, 39, of Swanton, and his older sister, Bobbi Jo Hodgdon, 43, of Milton were each charged with seven counts related to exploiting the elderly man. In addition to the charges, Bobbi Jo also has a habitual offender charge due to other similar convictions on her record.
According to court records, a teller at the Key Bank in St. Albans first contacted police to conduct a welfare check on the elderly man after he withdrew a large amount of money with two younger people who told the teller they were “helping” the man.
The 13-page affidavit spells out a scheme where the brother and sister convinced the elderly man to give them money. According to police, both Hodgdon siblings said they believed they had permission to take the money from the man. Jacob Hodgdon told police that he knew taking advantage of the elderly “was his sister’s M.O.”
Bobbi Jo Hodgdon had previously been convicted of six prior felonies, qualifying her to be charged as a habitual offender- that ups the penalty for a conviction to a possible life sentence.
When the teller at the Key Bank notified police about the suspicious behavior, she said the man’s finances were always very uniform, but recently he had been taking out large sums of money, with an estimated amount totaling $120,000. Most recently, the Hodgdons are accused of taking about $20,000 in the past 10 days from the man.
According to court records, the two Hodgdon siblings were working with John Tatro and Ashley Hamlin as part of the scheme to fleece the man, however, those two individuals have yet to be charged in connection with the case.
The officer working the case wrote in his sworn affidavit that he has conducted at least seven interviews and obtained video evidence to backup his case against the Hodgdons, adding “To date, evidence in this case against Bobbi Jo Hodgdon is still increasing on a weekly basis as more video is obtained and more records become available through correspondence with stores and subpoenas to the bank.”
According to the investigation, Bobbi Jo Hodgdon changed the pin code on the elderly man’s debit card to 2020 after she got her hands on it in order to ensure that she could use it, but he couldn’t. The investigating officer noted that this action was similar to a Swanton case in 2018 where Bobbi Jo was found to have changed the pin of an elderly man’s card she stole there.
One of the fraudulent transactions, according to police, was a purchase made at Lowe’s in Essex, where Bobbi Jo can be seen on video surveillance purchasing a large tool chest and tools, totaling just under $1,100.
The same day, according to testimony from one of Bobbi Jo’s acquaintances, she said she had to go to Burlington to see a friend with $1,800 that she had just withdrawn from the man’s bank account. The officer asked if the money was to be used for a drug deal, and the acquaintance just answered, “I plead the fifth.”
The same acquaintance told police that he knew Bobbi Jo to have “that type of situation on the side,” later clarifying that he thought she met the man when she was working as an escort.
Another acquaintance of Bobbi Jo told police that on a subsequent day, she showed up to the man’s house and demanded $2,000 that the man had withdrawn earlier that morning from his bank account. That person sold police that she had “brandished” a firearm at the time, and the man was so scared that he urinated in his pants.
In addition to the transaction at Lowe’s, investigators have determined that the pair used the man’s debit card at area ATM’s, at least one Maplefield’s gas station, the Dollar General in Milton, and Auto Exotica, an Audi car dealership in New Jersey.
The transaction at the car dealership was more than $48,000, according to the court files.
The investigator said that there were numerous other charges for woman’s clothing stores, jewelry stores, and Amazon- even though the man had never used Amazon.
The dates of these transactions go back as far as December of 2019, according to police.
During the course of the investigation, police learned that Jacob Hodgdon was wanted in the State of New York for an extraditable warrant. That led the court to take him into custody on Tuesday when he appeared for his arraignment on the seven Vermont charges linked to taking money from the elderly man.
In arguing for his release, Jacob’s public defender, Paul Groce, said his client was aware of the charges and warrant in the State of New York, and still showed to his arraignment in Vermont. Groce said he was working with New York to “resolve” the warrant there.
The Judge did not accept that as a reason to release Jacob, instead increasing his bail amount to $25,000. Jacob and Bobbi Jo had each posted $5,000 in bail late last week when they were arrested in order to be released until their Tuesday arraignments.
“Can you please just make it an unsecured bond,” Jacob pleaded with the Judge as he was ushered out of the courtroom, “Maybe lower the amount to something that I can post. I have $1,500 sitting at home.”
The Judge declined, citing Jacob’s criminal history riddled with charges and failures to appear to a court hearing, “Talk with your attorney, Mr. Hodgdon,” The judge said.
Jacob Hodgdon admitted to the investigating officer being involved with the fraudulent charges, including charges at Amazon, Lowe’s, and the auto dealership in New Jersey.
Bobbi Jo Hodgdon was released on conditions, including that she not have any contact with the victim, and that she not have any contact with elderly people.