Injured Soldier's Parents Charged With Stealing Son's Recovery Fund
Investigators: Parents gambled with money meant to pay for injured son's care.
June 10, 2010— -- A Wisconsin couple who have pleaded for help in caring for their son after he was severely injured while serving in Iraq have been charged with stealing more than $100,000 meant to finance his care and rehabilitation.
Lori and Michael Nault are accused of using at least $167,000 of their 23-year-old son's money to heavily gamble at casinos in three states and fund their own household expenses, a new truck and thousands of dollars in jewelry.
Army Specialist Shane Nault, who cannot speak and requires 24-hour care, suffered catastrophic brain injuries after an IED explosion in Iraq in May 2007. Just 23 years old, he is blind and suffered strokes.
According to court documents supporting felony theft charges for both Lori and Michael Nault, they tried to cover their tracks by listing their son's assets as $35,218 when there had actually been $254,191 deposited into nine bank accounts, many of them in Shane's name.
They face a fine of up to $25,000 and up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
A retired businessman who has given the Naults an estimated $30,000 after being touched by Shane's story said he had no idea the couple were accused of pilfering so much of their son's resources.
"What you have here is a classic scam," Robert Hytner said. "A lot of what you do is met with disappointment in charity."
By the time the district attorney's office began investigating the couple in 2008, several agencies, including the county Department of Human Services, the Veterans Administration and a bank manager, had started to question the couple's use of Shane's money.
The criminal complaint against the Naults, filed May 27, alleges they "significantly increased their lifestyle" with money meant for their son. They gambled away, according to the complaint, at least $53,000 of Shane's money and spent another $17,694 in gambling related expenses in Wisconsin, Minnesota and West Virginia in 2007 and 2008.
When confronted by a detective, the Naults admitted to making ATM withdrawals at one of the casinos, according to the complaint, but "that they believed the money designated in the account was to be used by them due to the care they provided for Shane."
Other expenses listed in the court documents paid with Shane's money include $4,100 in jewelry, along with Internet Web chat services, various household expenses and a $4,900 membership to the home furnishings company Direct Buy. There are also thousands of dollars in ATM withdrawals that were never accounted for.
In 2007, the complaint alleges, the couple used an $110,000 grant meant to be spent on Shane's care to purchase a Chevy truck in Michael Nault's name that is not equipped for transporting someone with Shane's injuries.
The complaint cited a 2008 Eau Claire Leader Telegram article reporting that Shane had received a customized van and quoting Lori Nault as complaining that it was too hard to get Shane in and out of the family's truck they had purchased.
Michael Nault declined to comment on the criminal charges against him and his wife, but told ABCNews.com that he believed the matter had been settled back in 2008 when a civil complaint led a judge to order guardianship of Shane's estate to a private company.
"Our lawyer told us not to talk to anyone about it because he would take care of it," he said, but noted that their priority remains their son. "We have always taken care of him. Me and my wife, we only have the clothes on our back."
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