By Linda Cicoira — A Bloxom man was convicted Wednesday in Accomack Circuit Court of six counts of financially exploiting a mentally incapacitated person.
Keith Earl Carver, 54, of Shoremain Drive, pleaded not guilty to the charges. He contended that he was friends with Ricky Burford, 68, a retired teacher who is Carver’s wife’s cousin, and was only trying to help the man when he withdrew a total of $4,800 from Burford’s bank account in May and June 2018. Carver lives with his wife in Burford’s former salon and flower shop.
Carver said he used Burford’s ATM card to get money out at Royal Farms in Onley and Parksley as Burford instructed. The six ATM visits included multiple withdrawals each time and occurred May 28 and 29 and June 3, 5, 9, and 12. Terry Lynn Carver, 63, the defendant’s wife, was also charged with the crimes but due to a lack of evidence Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Elizabeth Wolff did not prosecute her.
As Terry Carver, and her lawyer, Patrick Robbins, were leaving the defense table, Judge H. Thomas Padrick Jr. said the charges could be brought back up against her later. Padrick ordered a presentence report for Keith Carver and allowed him to remain free on bond. A date was not set for sentencing. Videos of Carver using the ATM machines were shown during the trial.
At first, the judge would not allow defense lawyer Allan Zaleski to call Burford to the stand. saying that Burford was not competent to testify. Dr. Robert Paschall, a neurologist, reported that on May 15, 2018, he determined Burford was incompetent due to progressive vascular dementia. Paschall said Burford had “too numerous to count” small strokes that had an adverse effect on his “memory, insight, and reasoning capabilities” and suffered from “a fixed delusional belief system … It is progressive, irreversible and will only, stepwise, get worse,” the doctor said. Paschall has been treating Burford for about 15 years. Burford “did not know the purpose of his visit” when Paschall made the determination, the witness testified.
Last August, the court also formally declared Burford to be incompetent and ordered Jewish Family Service to act as his caretaker.
Eventually, the judge allowed Burford to take the stand. “I make my own money,” Burford said. “Mr. Carver, he’s been like a brother to me.” Burford said he was in the car when Carver would get money from his account. “He gave me the money exactly,” Burford said, agreeing that Carver would hand it over and Burford would count it. “I would give them (the Carvers) some because I knew they didn’t have any. I would pay for groceries.” He said he would sometimes give them $20. “I trust him 100 percent. Wish I could trust the world like that.”
“We got to be real good friends,” Carver said. “His niece was supposed to take care of him. We went everywhere together. He was never getting out of the house … He can drive, but he don’t drive … I took him everywhere he wanted to go. I was his ride … We went to Ocean City (Md.) one time. He wanted Thrasher French fries, walked on the boardwalk … He bought nine or 10 buckets of caramel corn and we delivered it (to Burford’s friends) on the way back … One time he gave his niece’s daughter $300 or $400 to go back to college.”
“Why did it stop?” the judge asked. “His niece had his money cut off,” Carver said. “She had him cut off.”
Connie Burford, who also lives on Shoremain Drive in Bloxom, said for about 20 years, she helped her uncle with his businesses, took care of his finances, paid his bills, took him to doctor’s appointments and the grocery store and to run other errands. She said she was the caretaker for both her son and her uncle. The only time he wanted cash was to go out to eat Chinese food on Friday nights, she said.
“Rarely did he use a lot of cash,” she added. “My uncle was a very frugal person.”She said after the Carvers moved into the building, “they were in the house a lot. They would take him out early in the morning. He was not eating properly and not taking his medicine. They were not concerned.” Connie Burford said her uncle is a diabetic and would become incoherent. She said she had the power of attorney for her uncle but the Carver’s took him to a lawyer to get that revoked.
Selena Coulbourne, of the county department of social services, said after receiving a complaint of adult financial exploitation, she talked to Carver. On May 24, Carver told her he was aware that it was being said Burford was incapacitated. But he didn’t believe it. “He stated that he would continue to take Ricky to the bank anytime he asked him,” Coulbourne said.