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Sanford social worker who investigated elder abuse accused of stealing from her grandmother

MOORHEAD – A Sanford Health employee whose job involved investigating and reporting elder abuse and neglect is accused of stealing about $20,000 from her own grandmother.

Alyse Ann Penner, 28, of Moorhead, was charged Tuesday in Clay County District Court with one felony count of exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

Sanford Health officials said Penner’s employment as a social worker at Sanford Medical Center in Hillsboro, N.D., was terminated on Nov. 18.

Court documents filed in the case say Penner’s 78-year-old grandmother, who lives at River Pointe, an assisted-living facility here, told Moorhead police Sept. 25 that she noticed problems when her rent check bounced that month.

The elderly woman told Detective Ryan Nelson that her granddaughter, Penner, offered in spring or fall 2012 to help her pay her bills and take care of her finances.

Court documents allege that when the grandmother confronted Penner, she apologized and put $500 in the account. The grandmother told Nelson that Penner said she spent money on herself for camping, liquor and eating out and that she would take full responsibility, police allege.

The son of the grandmother told Nelson that he reviewed his mother’s bank statements and noticed suspicious transactions at restaurants, nail and hair salons.

Penner told Nelson in an interview that she began spending her grandmother’s money on herself about five months prior, authorities claim in the court complaint.

She told the detective she used her grandmother’s bank account to pay for about $10,000 in day care, purchases at Wal-Mart, hair salons, shopping and eating out, court records state.

Penner also allegedly told Nelson she made $10,000 in purchases on her grandmother’s credit card, paying for skiing, hotels and groceries.

Court records allege that Penner admitted to police she was aware her grandmother was a vulnerable adult, since her work as a Social Services manager included investigating elder abuse and neglect, and mandatory reporting.

Attempts to reach Penner at a number listed as hers were unsuccessful.

She hasn’t been arrested and has been ordered to appear in court Jan. 2.

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