Family Ties
August 15, 2012 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Relative robbed our grandma who has Alzheimer's... took $10,000 worth of gold belonging to me. Not the first time. What to do?

My cousin and my mom have a history of robbing my grandmother. She has Alzheimers (Grandma). She has never reported them to the police, but has been approached by a jeweller in the neighborhood who has known her for a long time saying, "I think these are your pieces." It turned out my aunt (or maybe cousin) were taking them and trying to sell them when they visited my grandmother.

This has recently happened again, except this time it was my stuff. I don't think they used the same jeweller after last time, so there's no proof. But my grandmother remembers the exact occasion that she think the stuff disappeared.

To clarify, this is $10,000 worth of gold that was given to my parents when I was born. We live in a culture where people do that. It is not common for people in our culture to keep gold in wardrobes, but my mom who gets sentimental about stuff like that-- and insisted we keep it there because it's safer with my grandmother, the maternal home etc.

I would love to have $10,000, though I don't really miss it. I feel bad that it's gone and bad for my parents, since it was really their friends who contributed so generously to their young life. My dad is sad that my baby stuff with my name engraved in it is sold.

(I'm also worried about my grandma who lives in a foreign country with my aunt and cousin, while we live in the US, and about who will take care of her).

Aside from the emotional stuff, is there any logical/concrete practical action we can take to get the stuff back? Everyone in my family is non-confrontational and there is a big issue about whether to really talk about this.

Finally, should I confront my cousin? (Via fb-- she lives abroad).

Tldr; my grandma is sick, she lives abroad with my aunt and cousin, who stole some stuff belonging to me (my parents)....

Thank you for any advice or wisdom you may be able to offer. I am putting this under "human relations" because of the family element but am also interested in the practical aspects of what to do when a family member steals.
posted by kettleoffish to Human Relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, if it were me and someone stole $10,000 worth of my possessions, I would call the police no matter who they were. Whether or not you're willing to do that is the question, I guess. Your relative is clearly taking advantage of the family relationship and banking on the fact you won't turn them in. That is Not Okay in my book. That person belongs in jail.
posted by something something at 6:53 PM on August 15, 2012 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: There's no proof this time though.
posted by kettleoffish at 6:53 PM on August 15, 2012

With a thieving relative, you have to find a way to cut their access. As a kid, I jointly co-owned a coin collection with a couple of relatives. The good pieces kept disappearing, probably hocked to pay for drugs. The only thing to really do was remove said individual's access. I think we ultimately liquidated the collection or split it up or otherwise eliminated the joint ownership aspect. But as long as they had physical access, pieces continued to disappear.

Whether you file a police report or not, things need to be physically rearranged such that the thieves cannot do it again.
posted by Michele in California at 6:56 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Everyone in my family is non-confrontational and there is a big issue about whether to really talk about this.

I'm sorry, but in what alternate reality is this "issue" worth losing 10k over?

Good god, if you're seriously talking about losing that much cash I would have been on a plane yesterday.
posted by lobbyist at 7:01 PM on August 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

I would call the police. Somebody has to break the cycle of sickness. Or give you your $10,000 back if it's worth it to them to keep the peace.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:05 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's no proof this time though

This is not a very relevant piece of information in the decision on whether or not to call the police. The stuff was stolen, it needs a police report, as soon as possible.
posted by brainmouse at 7:06 PM on August 15, 2012 [12 favorites]

It has your name engraved in it! The police can contact jewelers about that stuff! Sorry, this is just not making a lick of sense to me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:06 PM on August 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

Keep in mind that you may be ale to declare this lost property as a loss on our taxes. If you don't file a police report you will likely not be able to do that.
posted by bq at 7:15 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

The "no proof" thing isn't relevant. Something is missing - involve the police. The worst that will happen is you'll be right were you are now. At best you'll get your stuff back. Its not like you should want any future dealings with those who you suspect stole the gold, so no loss there if they are upset about being accused or caught.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:16 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Call the cops. Press charges for the previous incident (when the jeweller provided proof). I bet they'll cough up the jewellery they stole from you out of fear.
posted by Kololo at 7:18 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

My cousin and my mom have a history of robbing my grandmother.

This part is confusing. Is your mom the victim this time but has previously robbed your grandmother?
posted by mullacc at 7:20 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Do I have to file a police report in person?
posted by kettleoffish at 7:23 PM on August 15, 2012

Response by poster: *aunt, sorry. Not mom, slip of the tongue.
posted by kettleoffish at 7:24 PM on August 15, 2012

I'm sorry, but in what alternate reality is this "issue" worth losing 10k over?

Just a bit more context why this might be a plausible and rational decision: Let's say I'm the OP (and I could very well be, as I too have gold of exactly this sort in my home country). Let's say I'm living in a first world country and having an ok life, the household income of me and my partner exceed $200k per annum.

On the other hand, my grandparents live in a 3rd world country. I'm feeling some guilt at abandoning them in their old age. Their primary carers are my aunt and cousin, who work some crappy jobs where they possibly earn $20k per annum.

They take my gold, which if liquidated would be worth $10k, but you know, even if I took the gold myself, I wouldn't have liquidated it, so all I would end up with is some gold trinkets which I would have to pay to keep for all of time in a safe deposit box in the bank.

If I was actually concerned about keeping relations good between my relatives and I, for when I return to visit.... I would do something like write the aunt and cousin a letter, and tell them how much I appreciate them being there for my grandmother, and since I'm spending most of my time out of the country anyway, I would like to give them this sum of gold that I inherited as small token of my appreciation.

This is all assuming the stolen gold is yours to give away, and assuming the stolen gold is already well and truly gone and unrecoverable. Involving the police over this for a slim chance at getting your gold back, when it's worth so little (making just one trip back to the home country to visit = $10,000) doesn't make sense to me.
posted by xdvesper at 7:26 PM on August 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Let me check my understanding. The theft happened in another country and you believe it was perpetrated by your relatives who care for your grandmother? Is this correct.

1 - Is your grandmother safe and well cared for. If not, this is going to be a whole different discussion.

2 - Do you have any other valuables there?

Get your crap out of that house or kiss it goodbye. Your relatives are thieves. Your stuff is gone and a foreign police report is probably a waste of time. Operate under the assumption that everything else will be pilfered in due time. Make other arrangements for the care of your Grandmother if possible.
posted by 26.2 at 7:28 PM on August 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

This sort of thing is more common than many people realize. My own grandmother lived with dementia for the final decade of her life. She lived on her own, in a different city than my parents (she was a very difficult, difficult personality), and she relied on "friends" to help her with shopping and gardening.

These friends started to steal from her, and it intensified following 2007/08, when their retirement savings were devastated by the stock market collapse. So things were fine with her friends for many years, but after a while they started to feel entitled, and started to take advantage of her.

So my mother initiated power of attorney, and got it, and then proceeded to create a firewall in my grandmother's bank account to prevent theft and fraud via check or bank card.

Of course, my grandmother consented to power of attorney with my mother, and it's a good thing too, because she started getting visits from lawyers who attempted to reverse it! Luckily, she was declared the equivalent of "incompetent" prior to this, so her signature would have been meaningless.

It was also important to establish power of attorney before she was declared incompetent, otherwise the government would have likely stepped in to administer her affairs first before handing her over to my mother (minus a hefty admin bill).

At the same time, government agencies here do check to ensure power of attorney is not being abused.

To make a long story short, check out your legal options. If it seems likely that you cannot affect change within the family, tell the government what is happening. It's the nuclear option, but it may be for the best.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:04 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go to the police station in person. Make a report.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:48 PM on August 15, 2012

Response by poster: I'm so dumb about this stuff. I'm just curious how this would work.

Can I file a police report without returning to the country?

Can I hire a private detective?

What would be the most effective series of events:

-File police report
-Confront aunt about the theft

Or the reverse..?

My aunt has stolen numerous times from my grandmother, up to a million dollars. She has gotten in trouble with work for embezzlement, but as I understand no formal charges were pressed.

But it could be someone else like my uncle.

Neither of them is my grandmother's primary caretaker, that is my mother.
posted by kettleoffish at 6:31 AM on August 16, 2012

Can you tell us what country your grandmother lives in? That would help people guide you on what resources are available in reporting theft. Also, I am somewhat confused. You live in the US. Your grandmother lives abroad with your aunt and cousin. Where do your parents live? Are they also abroad in the same city as your grandmother?
posted by bluefly at 9:17 AM on August 16, 2012

Response by poster: Oh, sure, it's Cyprus.

It's not that clear from my original post, sorry. My grandmother lives in Cyprus. She lives alone. My mother visits her for several months out of the year and there now but is unwilling to report the theft. My grandmother's dementia is not advanced yet but it is not clear who will care for her when she is unable to care for herself. My aunt may be willing to do it in exchange to the deed for her house, or my mother may move home permanently.

I also have an uncle who has tried to have my grandmother declared incompetent so he can have her assets. He is the other person who could have taken the things.

I have a friend in my hometown who would be willing to report the theft for me. I think this will be helpful to my mother and grandmother legally in the future. I am trying to leave the bigger issues out of this but this is just to provide the larger picture of what filing a police report would do.
posted by kettleoffish at 9:27 AM on August 16, 2012

You don't need to know how to do this before you do this. Just call the local police (if you are able to speak the language) and ask them what to do. They will tell you what is needed, if you need to be there, what they want to know, etc. You don't need to know who did it, you just need to tell them what you do know, and let them take it from there. Call right now.
posted by brainmouse at 4:29 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

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