Pierce County couple charged with funneling elderly aunt’s money into struggling business

A Pierce County couple has been charged with stealing more than $100,000 from an elderly aunt and funneling the money into a struggling landscaping company.

Marlina Hardy, 42, and Nicholas Sheats, 40, face several counts of first-degree identity theft and first-degree theft. They are to be arraigned Jan. 16.

In February, a bank employee reported suspicions that Hardy was exploiting her elderly aunt and uncle, who both suffered from dementia. The uncle since has died, according to charging papers.

Prosecutors allege the theft started in October 2013 after Hardy moved her aunt and uncle into a Gig Harbor nursing home. Forged checks with the uncle’s signature then started going to the landscaping company of Sheats, Hardy’s boyfriend, the charging documents state.

The couple allegedly wrote 15 checks totaling about $55,000 in October and November 2013, most of which went to Gig Harbor Land Management.

The same day Hardy filed for power of attorney of her aunt and uncle, prosecutors say, she withdrew $15,000.

In a statement to investigators, Hardy said she wrote a check to Sheats’ company because he made modifications to her aunt and uncle’s rental home to accommodate a wheelchair.

She allegedly admitted to using some of their money for rent but said she “blew it off and did not realize that Sheats had written so many checks,” according to court documents.

Sheats allegedly told investigators he was having trouble getting his business off the ground and pushed Hardy into letting him use her aunt’s money.

“He claimed he felt ‘more responsible’ than Hardy because he pushed her,” documents show. “He says he did not physically threaten her but may have threatened to leave her.”