Mother Confesses She Stole $2,500 From Burn Victim Son’s Medical Bills

By Arielle Milkman

Dec 1, 2011 6:00am
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Jodi Ann Stewart, left, listens as her son, Antoine Willis, who was burned in an alleged attack, addresses the media, July 22, 2011 at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn. (Ginger Pinson/St. Paul Pioneer Press/TwinCities.com)

A Minnesota woman, Jodi Ann Stewart, reportedly admits stealing and spending $2,500 meant for her badly-burned son’s medical bills on gambling and drugs.

Stewart, 40, cried in court as she pleaded guilty to felony theft by swindle on Monday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

Antoine Willis, Stewart’s 19-year-old son, was in the hospital for weeks last summer after her boyfriend at the time allegedly set him on fire. Curtis Edwin Reed, 54, who has since separated from Stewart, is accused of pouring charcoal liquid on Willis on June 20, 2011, causing him to sustain severe burns to his hands, scalp, neck, face, torso and ear.

Willis declined to comment on the day of the ruling, according to the Pioneer Press, although he did talk to reporters about the assault earlier this year while he recovered in the hospital. Willis said Reed had repeatedly abused his mother physically and lit him on fire because he had intervened in the couple’s dispute that night. Willis said Reed was jealous of his close relationship with his mother.

“I think because my mom and I have such a connection, when I moved in, he got jealous. I don’t think he wanted me to be there, to tell you the truth,” Willis told the Star Tribune in a July 2011 interview.

Stewart’s sentence, delivered by District Judge Timothy McManus, is 60 days in jail. She has already served 34 days, and she will spend six of her remaining prison days doing community service.

McManus told Stewart she must pay restitution to her son, who she is barred from visiting until he requests to see her. She will also face more jail time if she violates any of the conditions of her five-year probation.

But Willis’ mother wasn’t alone in the swindle, police said. She allegedly had help from her brother, Jeffrey Allen Stewart.

Willis’ family didn’t have health insurance, and his uncle, Jeffrey Allen Stewart, set up a bank account he claimed would collect donations meant to pay for his nephew’s medical bills, according to police.

Willis told police he refused to sign the banking paperwork when Stewart asked him to do so because he didn’t trust his uncle.

In August, Jeffrey and Jodi Stewart withdrew $2,500 from bank accounts intended to help Willis with medical bills, police said.

Then they headed to a casino where they spent some of the cash on gambling for Jeffrey Stewart, who is unemployed. The rest of the funds went toward buying drugs for Jodi Stewart, according to Dakota County Police.

“So between gambling for yourself and drugs for her [Jodi Stewart] the money is gone. Is that a pretty good assumption?” an investigator asked Jeffrey Stewart, according to the criminal complaint filed by Dakota County Police.

“Probably,” Jeffrey Stewart responded.

Jeffrey Stewart has been charged with the same crimes as his sister. His court date is Dec. 5, and if he pleads guilty he will split the restitution payments with Jodi Stewart.

Both Jeffrey and Jodi Stewart have previous criminal records, although Jodi Stewart’s charges are mainly misdemeanors, while Jeffrey Stewart has been charged with a string of burglaries and assaults dating back to 1990.

Reed, Stewart’s former boyfriend, will appear in court Dec. 12 on assault charges for allegedly lighting Willis on fire.

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