Ogden couple accused of exploiting elderly blind woman; man denies charges
OGDEN — Two people are facing felony charges in the alleged exploitation of an elderly blind woman to obtain funds for a land deal, a late-model pickup truck and a cabin home in Summit County.
Charles Timothy Critchlow and his wife, Erin Chambers Critchlow, both 62, are charged with exploitation of a vulnerable adult and two counts of unlawful dealing of property by a fiduciary, second-degree felonies; and third-degree felony obstruction of justice.
They were charged on Aug. 13, 2021, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 10. They are free pending trial after posting $35,000 bail apiece. In an interview last week, Charles Critchlow vehemently denied the charges, saying his family had a 40-year relationship with the woman. He also accused Ogden police and Weber County prosecutors of dishonesty and incompetence.
According to Ogden Police Department and Weber County Attorney’s Office charging documents, a financial institution reported on July 22 that Critchlow allegedly attempted to withdraw $800,000 from the 93-year-old Ogden woman’s account. The woman was not able to answer the financial adviser’s questions about the attempted transaction, the documents said.
Critchlow also allegedly used the same account to obtain $47,000 toward a Ford F-150 pickup truck purchase, the probable cause statement said.
Critchlow, an inactive attorney, is not related to the woman. His father, who died in 2020, had been the woman’s attorney.
Police said they began an investigation and attempted to contact the woman, who had been living with the Critchlows for about four years. Police were told the woman was out of town with Charles Critchlow. The detective told Erin Critchlow that police needed to check the woman’s welfare and a face-to-face meeting was needed.
An attorney saying he represented the elderly woman and the Critchlows contacted police in early August and said he would not allow her to speak to police without the attorney being present, according to the charges.
Later that day, a detective found the woman at her longtime home elsewhere in Ogden. The detective said in the charging affidavit that Charles Critchlow “blocked” her from the home and screamed to the elderly woman that police were there to have her involuntarily committed.
Police obtained a search warrant and interviewed the woman in her home. They said they found a carbon copy of a $300,000 check that was used for the purchase of a parcel of land behind the Critchlows’ home.
Asked about the check, the woman said she did not know what the check was for and did not approve the transaction, according to police. Asked why she bought the Critchlows’ property, she said the Critchlows needed money and she wanted to help them. “The transaction did not benefit (the woman) in any way,” the police affidavit said.
The detective said she next asked the woman about a $70,000 deposit into Erin Critchlow’s account. The woman “stated it was possibly for the down payment on the cabin.” She said she did not know about the deposit and she had not approved it.
Asked about the $800,000 attempted withdrawal, the woman told police she was going to buy a cabin with the Critchlows. The affidavit said the woman was not able to provide any information about the cabin, including the address or listing price.
Police next got a search warrant for the Critchlows’ home. The affidavit said officers found a copy of the woman’s trust, which listed the Critchlows as the beneficiaries of her estate. They also said they found a sales document for the cabin listing only the Critchlows as buyers and listing a $70,000 earnest money sum.
Police said they contacted Utah Adult Protective Services to pursue a safety plan for the woman.
“There’s no defrauding,” Charles Critchlow said in a phone interview. She said he and his wife had known the woman for several years and that she had been a friend and client of his father for decades.
Critchlow said the woman asked to move in with them, the couple having helped her in various ways. She lived in a “dirty, filthy house,” he said. In a lengthy affidavit Critchlow provided, he said his wife first became acquainted with the woman a decade ago and regularly took her to her hair appointments. Erin Critchlow also took Critchlow’s father and mother to their appointments in the community, the affidavit said.
Regarding the alleged instances of fraud, Critchlow said the woman readily agreed to the transactions and even initiated the property purchase. “She knew exactly what she was doing,” he said.
He said the woman overheard Erin Critchlow talking about her need to sell a “pasture” behind their home. “I like land,” the woman said, according to Critchlow, and offered to buy the property.
In a motion filed in court to preserve the Critchlows’ assets for potential restitution payments, prosecutors said the sales deed transferred the property to the woman and Erin Critchlow as joint tenants with a right of survivorship, meaning the land would go to Erin Critchlow upon the woman’s death.
Ogden police arrested the Critchlows on Aug. 17 in Summit County. They had the woman in the back seat of the Ford pickup and told police they had been in Wyoming for a week.
Police subpoenaed records from the woman’s investment firm that charging documents said showed $47,000 was withdrawn to buy a pickup truck for the Critchlows. The company documents said the Critchlows were to repay the sum within a month, but there was no record of repayment.
Charles Critchlow said he had been having trouble with his old truck and the woman offered to buy a new one, because the Critchlows conveyed her around town in it so often.
The preservation of assets motion listed $505,000 in sums that prosecutors said should be returned to the woman, including $35,000 for water damage to the Critchlows’ home. Charles Critchlow said in his affidavit that the woman caused the water damage by accidentally plugging the toilet in her room.
Charles Critchlow said he and his wife discussed with the woman the idea of buying a cabin in Oakley as an investment, where the three would stay in one of the two homes while renting out the other as an Airbnb. He said the woman liked the idea of living in a cabin near the outdoors.
He said they consulted the woman’s attorneys and accountants on all of the transactions. He added that “everybody who knows her and loved her is aligned with us.”
Critchlow attacked the validity of the investigation, criticizing the police detective who worked on it and saying that “the story is the incompetence of the Weber County Attorney’s Office.”
He said a prosecutor on the case, Sean Brian, is his step-brother’s son. “They don’t even recognize they have a conflict,” Critchlow said. “Sean Brian’s grandmother, my stepmother,” is the elderly woman’s “best friend.”
Asked about the alleged conflict of interest, Weber County Attorney Christopher Allred said, “I think the relation is too removed to present a conflict.” He also said three other deputy county attorneys have worked on the case.
Allred also defended the case against the Critchlows. “This isn’t something we take lightly,” he said. At least four experienced prosecutors reviewed the evidence, he said. “I am confident we have sufficient evidence to prove the charges,” Allred said. “We screen cases very conservatively in this office.”
Allred said he could not discuss the specifics of the case beyond the contents of the charging documents. “We have an obligation to protect vulnerable adults in our community, and this appears to be a fairly egregious case of exploitation of a vulnerable adult.”
On Nov. 3, 2021, an attorney representing the elderly woman filed a civil suit against the Critchlows in 2nd District Court. The suit alleges that the property the woman bought was not suitable for building a separate home and its only practical value was as a portion of the Critchlows’ backyard.
The suit seeks a court-ordered constructive trust so the Critchlows will not be “unjustly enriched.”