Delco DA: Three court-appointed guardians stole more than $1 million from seniors

An elaborate embezzlement scheme involved funneling seniors’ funds through a shell company and a church where two of the three defendants were pastors.

Delaware County District Attorney Kat Copeland and Criminal Investigation Division Chief Joseph Ryan announce charges against Gloria Byars and Keith and Carolyn Collins for defrauding seniors out of more than $1 million. (Dana Bate/WHYY)

Delaware County District Attorney Kat Copeland and Criminal Investigation Division Chief Joseph Ryan announce charges against Gloria Byars and Keith and Carolyn Collins for defrauding seniors out of more than $1 million. (Dana Bate/WHYY)

Three court-appointed guardians have been charged by the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office with bilking 108 incapacitated seniors out of more than $1 million.

Gloria Byars, 58; Keith Collins, 59; and Carolyn Collins, 70, allegedly used a shell company and a local church where the Collinses were pastors to launder money they stole from seniors whose health, safety, and welfare they were supposed to be monitoring.

“Gloria Byars, Keith Collins, and Carolyn Collins were entrusted to care for our most vulnerable elderly citizens. Instead of simply doing their job, they cruelly embezzled over $1 million from over 100 incapacitated individuals — people who could not make decisions for themselves,” said Delaware County District Attorney Kat Copeland.

“To add insult to injury,” she said, “Keith and Carolyn Collins, as pastors, used their church to help funnel the stolen money, betraying not only their duties as court-appointed guardians, but their duties as ministers of God.”

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Copeland said the three developed an elaborate embezzlement scheme involving seniors across six counties — Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware, Berks, Lancaster and Philadelphia.

In 2012, Byars, a resident of Aldan, in Delaware County, established a bank account in the name of ICU Records and Billing, which she allegedly used as a shell company to move stolen money from the bank accounts of seniors in her care to other shell business accounts. Byars and the Collinses also allegedly used two other companies, ACC Medical and CWR Medical, to launder the money. Money was funneled, too, from ICU Records and Billing to the Church of the Overcomer in Trainer, where the Collinses were pastors.

In total, those in Byars’ and the Collinses’ care were defrauded of more than $1 million.

Copeland said that in addition to using some of the money to pay the church’s taxes, the trio paid for Lexus cars, Jimmy Choo shoes, Louis Vuitton goods, and international travel, including timeshares and a trip to Spain.

“They’re paying for vacations for themselves and their families at Hilton [Hotel], while these incapacitated wards are in nursing homes, alone, and their bills aren’t even being paid,” Copeland said.

Lack of payment is what tipped off authorities to the scheme. In 2017, the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office Criminal Investigation Division Senior Exploitation Unit began investigating a complaint by a nursing home that it was not receiving payment for a 94-year-old client.

That investigation led authorities to Pinnacle Guardian, a guardianship corporation run by Keith and Carolyn Collins, who are married and live in Ridley Park. Pinnacle was removed as the 94-year-old’s guardian by the Orphans’ Court of Delaware County. New guardians were appointed, and the Collinses were ordered to provide information about all of their cases.

Of the 25 incapacitated seniors Pinnacle oversaw, investigators found that 18 had account irregularities, including cash withdrawals from banks and checks written to Pinnacle staff. The investigation uncovered $110,000 in unauthorized withdrawals from 18 separate victims, including $33,000 from the 94-year-old victim between December 2015 and June 2017.

The investigation also led to a company called Global Guardian, another guardianship corporation, this one run by Gloria Byars, who is Carolyn Collins’s sister. Before setting up her own corporation, Byars had worked for Robert Stump, who runs RES Consulting and manages numerous guardianships in the Philadelphia area. In October 2016, Stump fired Byars and, in reviewing her former cases, found she had taken guardianship files from his office.

The DA’s Office has charged Byars with 90 counts each of theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, theft by receiving stolen property, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, and conspiracy. The Collinses have been charged with 18 counts of theft.

All three defendants turned themselves in at the Delaware County Courthouse in Media Monday morning, Copeland said.

Keith Collins, who has been charged with theft by the Delco DA’s office, says he did nothing wrong. (Dana Bate/WHYY)

Leaving the courthouse, Keith Collins said he’d done nothing wrong.

“These are false allegations,” he said. “My life’s work will speak for itself.”

After appearing at the courthouse, the three were taken to Judge Elisa Lancianca in Havertown for bail hearings.

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