BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A Titusville man who served as the primary caregiver of a disabled veteran was arrested Monday and booked with felony charges including elderly neglect and exploitation, according to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.
Kenneth Wells, 31, was paid at least $16,853 by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2021 to provide care for a “100-percent disabled” 77-year-old veteran who was found living in squalor during multiple check-ups, according to an affidavit.
Wells took the job in April 2021, in which he applied to care for the veteran by providing him food, a clean residence, help with bathing and other medical needs, deputies said.
Despite not being a licensed caregiver by the VA, it would pay him $1,600 per month to provide the care, which he allegedly told deputies was his only source of income. Due to how the veteran’s dependence on oxygen prevented him from leaving his apartment, deputies said the veteran allowed Wells to make purchases with his credit card and write checks for rent on his behalf. No relevant Power of Attorney was filed giving Wells any such authority, deputies said.
The veteran told deputies he gave Wells permission to use his credit card for some personal purchases, but not for the amounts that were ultimately recorded, the affidavit said. Upon subpoenaing the veteran’s bank, deputies said Wells wrote out more than $3,000 worth of checks to himself between April and December 2021, five of which were allegedly altered with inflated values.
Deputies said one of the veteran’s bank accounts was found to be $2,000 overdrawn, despite the veteran reporting a monthly income of around $5,000. In a review of the veteran’s credit card transactions, between 75-120 charges were made each month that would total between $2,500-$5,000. Deputies said most of the expenses did not appear to be in the veteran’s benefit, such as charges for bars, movie theaters, adult entertainment, GTL jail telephone calls and Walt Disney World. Over a period of eight months, deputies said approximately $18,000 to $20,000 was spent in this manner.
Wells moved in to the veteran’s apartment and lived there rent-free, yet made no attempt to improve the living environment even after multiple requests and re-checks, the affidavit said. Acting on a complaint submitted to the U.S. Department of Children and Families regarding the exploitation and neglect of an elderly person, deputies who responded to the veteran’s apartment reported seeing “an extreme amount of clutter,” overflowing garbage, a bug infestation and rotting food.
The veteran was found multiple times home alone wearing nothing but a diaper, which at some points was unchanged, deputies said. A social worker with the VA who performed conduct checks of the veteran noted his declining psychical and mental health, deteriorating living conditions and a growing concern over missing and constantly requested “Alprazolam,” a medication more commonly known as Xanax, the affidavit said.
The VA released a statement to News 6 on the case:
Monday’s booking was Wells’ ninth since Jan. 14, 2012, records show.