By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Everett woman and her husband have been indicted on federal fraud charges based on allegations that the couple scammed their adoptive son out of the nearly $800,000 he received as part of a civil lawsuit settlement.
Federal prosecutors say that Lori Wiley-Drones, 57, and her husband Edward Drones, 61, illegally took control of their son’s trust account and during the course of a year spent all but $15.05 from the $775,252 the teen was awarded by the state of Alaska.
An Alaskan grand jury indicted the couple on 24 counts of wire fraud. They face years behind bars if convicted.
The boy was placed in foster care shortly after he was born in 1990. The Droneses became his foster parents and then adopted him in 2001. A few years later, they filed a civil lawsuit on his behalf, alleging that the state 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 courts determined that he would need help managing his money.
Prosecutors allege that the Droneses tried to persuade the guardian to pay them more than $1,600 a month from their son’s account. Up until the boy turned 18, the couple had received about $1,600 a month from the state as part of an adoption subsidy, court papers said. The guardian denied the request, saying that the teen already paid his parents $800 a month in rent. Additionally, he received $500 a month for personal expenses.
A month before that request, Wiley-Drones allegedly told the guardian that her son, then 19, wanted to buy her Everett house. The guardian told the woman 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 allegedly withdrew more than $220,000 to buy Wiley-Drones a house in Everett. They also allegedly bought vehicles totaling more than $49,000 even though their son didn’t have a driver’s license. Prosecutors say the couple spent more than $25,000 on women’s jewelry. They also reportedly paid more than $124,000 toward credit cards that didn’t belong to their son. They made more than $60,000 worth of home improvements.
None of the purchases benefited their son, prosecutors allege.
The couple reportedly lied in court papers about their son’s assets, claiming that he owned a mobile home in Alaska and a house in Everett. A title search revealed that the homes don’t belong to him, but are owned solely by his parents.
Prosecutors have moved to seize both homes and two dozen pieces of women’s jewelry.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation division and Anchorage police.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.