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Elder abuse fraud leads to prison term

A Medford man was sentenced to more than six years in prison Friday after he was found guilty of defrauding an elderly man.

Billy James Parham, 56, was sentenced in Jackson County Circuit Court following a jury verdict earlier this week finding him guilty of nine felonies stemming from thousands of dollars taken while working as 93-year-old Michael Dietrich's caregiver in early 2014.

Between Jan. 27 and April 19 of that year, when Parham lived with Dietrich as his caregiver, Dietrich's account was drained of more than $10,000, according to Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Lull. Dietrich has since died.

"He was on a fixed Social Security income," Lull said.

Parham apparently wrote multiple checks to himself greater than $1,000, and wrote paychecks for two associates in the scheme, according to Lull and a court document filed by Medford police in the case. The paychecks were hundreds of dollars more than the wages. After cashing their over-valued paychecks at the bank, the associates would bring the extra cash to Parham and then keep a cut.

The investigation began in 2014 when a bank manager spotted suspicious activity, according to Lull.

"The bank manager from Bank of America was the one who noticed that the account was being drained at an alarming rate," Lull said.

The manager contacted Adult Protective Services after Parham screened the bank's calls to Dietrich, and ultimately contacted police.

Court records show that the case took more than three years to prosecute because Parham had failed to appear in court multiple times since April of 2014, when he was first indicted.

Following roughly 90 minutes of deliberations Thursday, a jury found Parham guilty of two counts of first-degree criminal mistreatment, three counts of aggravated identity theft, a count of aggravated first-degree theft and three counts of first-degree theft. All nine of the charges are felonies.

Parham was booked in the Jackson County Jail Thursday following the verdict, jail records show. On Friday morning, Circuit Judge Lisa Greif sentenced Parham to 78 months in prison.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or morgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Billy James Parham