Lexington, SC - Tristan Addison Widener, age 29, pleaded guilty this week in Lexington County to multiple financial crimes and was sentenced to a consecutive total of twenty (20) years in prison, followed by five years of probation and restitution to the victims. The evidence revealed that Widener preyed upon the most vulnerable victims, including elderly and disabled persons. The cases against Widener were jointly investigated and prosecuted by the 11th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, the S. C. Attorney General’s Office, and the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department. After hearing the facts of the crimes and listening to the victims who were present in court, Circuit Court Judge Lawton McIntosh delivered a stern sentence.
Widener worked at Colonial Gardens Alzheimer’s Care Center in the Fall of 2016. At the time, he was on probation for a financial identity fraud conviction in Richland County and also on federal probation for fraud in the U.S. District Court. While employed at the residential care facility, Widener unlawfully gained possession of two credit cards that were in the name of an 87 year old resident with severe dementia. Without her consent, he used her cards at retail establishments such as Sam’s Club, Walmart, Coach, Piggly Wiggly, and Dollar General. Widener was terminated from Colonial Gardens in April 2017.
Widener was subsequently hired as a private caregiver by a Chapin resident who was unaware of his prior criminal record. While inside her residence, Widener found and stole a blank check from a bank account belonging to his employer’s mother, a 97 year old resident of a facility. Without her consent, Widener wrote a $500 check payable to himself, which he deposited into his own bank account.
Because the 87 and 97 year old victims lived in residential care facilities, Investigator John Valdario with the Medicaid Fraud Unit of the S.C. Attorney General’s Office charged Widener with Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult (6 counts), Financial Transaction Card Fraud (2 counts), Financial Transaction Card Theft (2 counts) and Forgery. Widener pleaded guilty to these charges on May 23, 2018. Assistant Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Moore handled the prosecution of these charges.
While in the Chapin residence, Widener also accessed and misappropriated the financial information of his employer, and he did so in several ways: he used her credit cards for unauthorized personal purchases; using her date of birth and social security number, he applied for and received several other credit cards in her name without her knowledge or consent, which he then proceeded to use for more illicit purchases; and, without her consent, he applied for numerous other credit cards. Investigator Tricia Stoner of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department investigated these crimes and arrested Widener for financial identity fraud, a felony offense. Widener pleaded guilty to the charge on May 23, 2018. 11th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Robert Elam handled the prosecution of this charge.
As a result of his guilty pleas, and his prior record for financial crimes, Widener was sentenced to the maximum ten years that financial identity fraud carries, and two consecutive maximum sentences of five years for exploitation of a vulnerable adult, for a total of twenty consecutive years. Widener’s sentence will be followed by five years of probation, which will include restitution for the losses caused by his criminal conduct.
Widener is being transported to the S.C. Department of Corrections to begin immediate service of the twenty year sentence.