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Ex-Coroner Charged With Using Dead Person’s Debit Card

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A former county coroner in Georgia was indicted by a federal grand jury in early March on charges of identity theft and debit card fraud — he’s accused of taking a dead person’s debit card and repeatedly making unauthorized transactions in September 2012.

The accused is Grover F. Tuten Jr., who was the coroner for Richmond County at the time the FBI began investigating the incident. He faces federal charges of fraudulently using a debit card without authorization and aggravated identity theft, according to The Florida Times-Union. He is also being prosecuted by the Augusta Circuit Court district attorney on charges of theft by taking and violating an oath of public office. The federal charge of debit card fraud carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The identity theft charge carries a mandatory sentence of two years, and there is no parole in the federal judicial system.

Further details of the case have not been released. Tuten resigned last year and was replaced by Mark Bowen, who had no comment on the case.

It’s unclear how the card allegedly came into Tuten’s possession or how much was spent, but Bowen explained the office’s procedure for dealing with a deceased person’s possessions:

When the coroner is called to the location of a body, workers take inventory of the property there, log it on a property receipt in the presence of a witness and bring it back to the office. There, it is kept in a property room that is accessed by only the property custodian, until family members come to collect the person’s belongings. At that point, the family goes through the possessions and compares them to the property receipt with the property custodian. Bowen described the property room as “a bank-type vault with an alarm on it.”

The status of those unauthorized purchases has not been released. By law, if debit card fraud is reported within two business days, the maximum liability is $50, but the longer fraud goes on unreported, the more the victim may be liable for those purchases.

This sad story underlines the importance of estate planning — and of making sure that a trusted person can access your accounts if you either become incapacitated or die. Monitoring your accounts closely until they are closed is a good way to detect — and put an end to — fraudulent activity. Fraud can happen to anyone, so be sure to keep an eye on your financial accounts and your credit — both can alert you to possible identity theft or fraud.

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