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Woman pleads not guilty in Las Vegas elderly exploitation case

Updated September 11, 2019 - 9:48 pm

A woman accused of siphoning upward of $13 million from the estate of an elderly Las Vegas couple pleaded not guilty to theft and elderly exploitation charges Wednesday.

With seven counts each of theft and exploitation of an older/vulnerable person, Shelly Calderon, 50, faces one count of forgery and one count of offering a false instrument for filing or record.

Roughly $112,000 of the money prosecutors allege Calderon took was supposed to be used as part of Betty and Ralph McKnight’s purchase of the 138-acre Binion Ranch in Pahrump for $1 million in late 2016, according to an indictment.

Outside of court, Calderon’s attorney, Dominic Gentile, said he plans to take the case to trial.

“This lady is going to be found not guilty,” Gentile said, pointing to a March settlement agreement in a civil dispute between Calderon and Betty McKnight.

The indictment also alleges that between December 2016 and April 2017, Calderon transferred assets worth between $12.7 million and $13.4 million from what was known as the McKnight 1998 Trust into the Oakmont West 2016 trust, which Calderon controlled.

Calderon, a Pahrump insurance agent, “oversaw the amendment of (the McKnight’s) estate planning documents — to her favor — that had been in place for decades,” a Metro report said. Investigators found that Calderon “exploited the elderly couple prior to becoming their fiduciary, power of attorney and trust beneficiary. This fact tends to suggest Calderon’s financial motivation and pattern of exploiting the couple.”

The McKnights were married more than 65 years, until he died in April 2017 at age 90. At the end of his life, prosecutors alleged in the indictment, Ralph McKnight suffered from “cognitive defects as well as mobility issues.”

Prosecutors also said that Calderon liquidated a pair of insurance policies worth more than $250,000 owned byRalph McKnight and deposited the money into her own bank account.

Calderon later used one of Betty McKnight’s credit cards to pay $25,000 to attorney Robert Draskovich in the summer of 2017, while authorities were investigating Calderon and McKnight was suffering from dementia, according to court documents.

In August of that year, Calderon used more than $1 million from the Oakmont West 2016 trust to buy a home and 100 acres of land in Texas.

Calderon is due back in court in May.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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