Harvey man convicted of exploiting elderly woman, taking $800,000

A Jefferson Parish jury on Wednesday evening (May 1) convicted Paul Juarez of exploiting an elderly Terrytown woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, assuming legal control of her finances and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of her money on many unexplained expenses.

Juarez, 72, of Harvey, is guilty as charged of exploitation of persons with infirmities in connection with his spending more than $800,000 of Marjorie Blake’s money during a six-year period, the jury found. Ms. Blake, a retired nurse and divorcée from North Carolina who had no children, died in March 2014 at age 85.

“She died penniless and alone,” Assistant District Attorney Lynn Schiffman, who prosecuted Juarez with Assistant District Attorney Johnny Carr, told jurors.

According to evidence presented at trial, Juarez knew Blake through their West Bank church and, after she was medically deemed unable to make decisions for herself due to Alzheimer’s in 2008, he assumed power of attorney for the ailing woman. Juarez refused to allow Ms. Blake’s closest relative, a niece who lives in North Carolina, to even visit her aunt.

Testimony showed that in 2010 Juarez transferred more than $300,000 from Ms. Blake’s bank to his own without explanation. He also made himself and his wife the exclusive beneficiaries to Ms. Blake’s life insurance policy. He used her money to pay a tax bill in Florida, in a county where his wife owned a business.

Ms. Blake’s niece, who was named in the will, contacted her attorney, who in turn contacted the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, leading to Juarez’s arrest.

Juarez denied exploiting Ms. Blake. His attorney argued that Ms. Blake made arrangement with Juarez to tend to her own care, and that he was carrying out her wishes. She wasn’t close to her niece, and she didn’t want to return to North Carolina, his attorney argued.

The six-member jury deliberated less than an hour before returning with its verdict. Judge Conn Regan of the 24th Judicial District Court is presiding over the case.

(UPDATE: Judge Regan on May 6 set Juarez’s sentencing hearing for July 11.)

Assistant District Attorneys Lynn Schiffman and Johnny Carr prosecuted the case.