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Nurse accused of stealing credit cards from patients
By: Maria Miller
RICHLAND TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- A Johnstown-area nurse is facing fraud and theft charges after police said she stole several credit cards and checks from residents at the care center she worked for.
It was in November 2013 when Richland Township Police Chief Mike Burgan said his officers were alerted to several thefts by an employee of Richland Woods Assisted Living Center.
"She worked at the facility and was able to get access to their credit cards and had actually opened accounts with their names," Burgan said. "She was able to get their identities, checks, checking information from different people."
Police said they quickly traced the activity to Shelly Ellsworth, who is now facing several charges of fraud and theft for allegedly stealing from at least six residents at the center.
"We're looking into the range of about $14,000 worth of property," Burgan said.
"Within two hours we had identified the party responsible, removed her from our community and she has not been back since," said Tim Coughlin, co-owner of Richland Woods.
Coughlin said Ellsworth was a relatively new employee, but had undergone several background and license checks, drug screening and intensive training.
"Part of the challenge in the work we do for older people in long-term care is that there are thousands of aids who are truly Florence Nightingales in their work in support of the elderly," Coughlin said. "But once in a while you get a thief and a liar and they look like Florence Nightingale."
While members of the retired living community lean on each other to get through an incident so hard to comprehend, police said it's a case that highlights the importance of being involved in the finances of elder family members.
"Family members need to keep an eye on their parents' finances and accounts," Burgan said. "Get a credit history run to make sure no one is issuing or stating anything in their names."
"As shocking, disappointing and offensive as this person's behavior was, we are very heartened at how our residents, staff and families have rallied together," Coughlin said.
Police said they were able to find surveillance video of Ellsworth using a stolen debit card at a Sheetz ATM. They said she has since confessed to stealing from six different residents.
Ellsworth is not in jail. She was arraigned Wednesday and released on $40,000 unsecured bail.