Couple sentenced for embezzling from son

EVERETT — A former Everett woman and her husband have been sentenced in Alaska to nearly four years in federal prison for embezzling from their adoptive son the $830,000 he was awarded as part of a civil lawsuit settlement.

A federal judge also ordered Lori Wiley-Drones, 57, and her husband, Edward Drones, 62, to pay back the money they stole from the child they had promised to protect.

Federal prosecutors alleged that the couple illegally took control of their son’s trust account and in less than a year drained it of all but $15.05 from the more than $830,000 the teen was awarded by the state of Alaska.

They bought $38,000 in jewelry, $67,000 in new cars and used $125,000 to pay their credit card bills. The couple also used their son’s money to buy a house in Everett and make $60,000 in home improvements.

An Alaskan grand jury indicted the couple last year on two dozen counts wire fraud. They were convicted of five counts of wire fraud and one count of filing a false income tax return.

The case was pieced together by the criminal investigation division of the Internal Revenue Service.

The victim was placed in foster care shortly after he was born in 1990. The Droneses became his foster parents and adopted him in 2001. They later filed a lawsuit on his behalf, claiming the state of Alaska failed to protect the boy.

The state settled the lawsuit in 2008. A judge appointed a third party to oversee the boy’s finances. He was about to turn 18, but the court determined that he should have help managing his money.

Prosecutors alleged that the Droneses tried to persuade the guardian to pay them more than $1,600 a month from their son’s account. Up until he turned 18, they had received about $1,600 a month from the state as part of an adoption subsidy. The guardian denied the request. The teen already paid his parents $800 a month in rent.

A month before that request, Wiley-Drones told the guardian her son, then 19, wanted to buy her Everett house. The guardian said she wouldn’t approve the purchase unless she spoke with the teen alone and had a third party evaluate the purchase.

The Droneses had the professional guardian removed. Edward Drones was allowed to take over his son’s finances in part because of lies they told the court, according to the indictment.

Once they were in control of their son’s money, they withdrew more than $220,000 to buy Wiley-Drones a house in Everett.

U.S. District Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason said Wednesday that the Droneses destroyed their son’s ability to trust people. She said the boy’s biological father had compromised his childhood and his adoptive parents compromised his future.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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