NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A couple from Franklin, Tennessee has been charged in an elaborate scheme to defraud an elderly widow with dementia out of $1.7 million, according to federal investigators.
The Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee said Karl Hampton, 63, and his 59-year-old wife, Deborah Hampton, were arrested Wednesday morning by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A criminal complaint states Karl Hampton met the victim while he was working as an exterminator for a pest control company based out of Belle Meade and provided extermination services for her home from early 2016 through mid-2019.
The U.S. Attorney said beginning in Jan. 2018, when the widow was 85 years old, Karl Hampton devised a scheme to defraud the woman, along with various financial institutions and credit and loan-issuing institutions, by making the woman believe that he was her son or godson and that he would care for her personally and financially.
The victim, who was later diagnosed with dementia, signed over her power of attorney and named Karl Hampton in her revocable living trust and in her will.
The criminal complaint alleges Karl Hampton “methodically” drained the woman’s bank accounts, took out a $500,000 line of credit in her name using her securities as collateral and amassed huge charges on her credit cards for his own personal expenses, all under the false pretenses.
The victim’s trust specified that Karl and Deborah Hampton would be beneficiaries when the woman died. Karl Hampton also quit his job and continued to drain the victim’s bank accounts, according to investigators.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Karl Hampton took out a $500,000 line of credit in the woman’s name at SunTrust in Dec. 2019, then wrote checks to himself, purchased cashier’s checks, took out cash withdrawals and transferred money out of the woman’s bank account and into a bank account in the name of Falcon Company, which he set up and controlled.
In Jan. 2020, the criminal complaint states Karl Hampton used $170,000 of the money from the line of credit to purchase an ownership interest in his own name in a pest control business located in Franklin.
The paperwork alleges he also rented an apartment in Murfreesboro in the victim’s name, while she had been living at NHC of Cool Springs, an assisted living facility, for about six months, recovering from hip surgery.
During the course of the scheme, investigators said Karl Hampton took a total of approximately $1,240,438.06 from the woman’s accounts and frequently purchased luxury items, often spending between $1,000 and $1,500 per day on lottery tickets.
He and his wife also purchased a luxury Lexus SUV, using $21,000 of the criminal proceeds, and spent $21,452 on a 4.3-karat diamond ring, according to the paperwork.
Karl Hampton also liquidated two investment accounts of the woman’s deceased sister in the amount of $246,645 and used the money for his own benefit, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The Hampton couple is charged with money laundering, while Karl Hampton also faces a charge of wire fraud. Both will make an initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge Wednesday.
If convicted, Karl Hampton faces up to 20 years in prison, while Deborah Hampton could be held for 10 years.