Woman exploits elder to pay for SUV, hot tub, plastic surgery

When the money ran out, Karen Furlough hitched the Hummer to the RV and abandoned Las Vegas.

She left 75-year-old Delores Hales with almost nothing — $81, a 1972 Eisenhower silver dollar and her late father’s antique pistols.

Hales had thought Furlough was her friend — they even moved together from Oklahoma into a southwest valley six-bedroom, five-bath house, with a monthly rent of $3,800.

After spending only a few months in Las Vegas, Furlough had stole at least $230,000 from Hale, and possibly upward of $145,000 more, in what prosecutor J.P. Raman called a swift and extreme case of elderly exploitation.

But Hales had no idea that she was being bilked of nearly every penny and possession until a bank investigator started asking questions.

At a sentencing hearing Tuesday, when Furlough, 43, was ordered to serve four to 10 years in prison and pay back Hales, Raman called Furlough a “prolific con woman.”

The ruse began in June 2011 when Furlough walked in the doors of Quester, an oil company in Oklahoma City, hired through a temp agency, according to a report from Las Vegas police Detective Gabriella Hatfield.

Hales worked nearly 50 years in the oil industry, the last 24 years at Quester.

Furlough garnered sympathy from Hales when she said her three children and father were killed in a horrific car crash, burned beyond recognition. She told people her grandfather was a “rich baron” from England and left her “a lot of money,” according to Hatfield’s report.

Lies, all of it.

Furlough said her mother died at child birth — another lie. Both her parents are alive in Texas.

Two of her children live with their father, and another lives with his grandmother.

She was fired when oil company bosses discovered Furlough had a felony conviction out of Huntsville, Texas, but she explained it away to Hales. She said she had an accident, couldn’t pay the insurance bill and that her husband wrote a bad check.

That, too, was a lie. Her former husband, Paul Lindsey, has no criminal record.

Shortly before Hales and Furlough met, Hales’ husband, Leroy Buchanan, died at age 68. Then Hales’ father, Don W. Hales, died at age 92.

Furlough threw extravagant birthday and holiday parties for Hales, who unwittingly paid for the celebrations. Furlough even helped arrange the funeral for Hales’ only child, Danny Housler, who died unexpectedly at age 53 not long after the two women met.

Hales had lost her closest relatives, and Furlough saw an opportunity, prosecutors said.

In early 2013, she persuaded Hales to put most of her possessions in storage and move with her to Las Vegas.

Furlough told Hales she landed a $600,000 job as a mainframe engineer at Bellagio. Not remotely true. The only work Furlough did in Las Vegas was steal from Hales, prosecutors said.

“She took me away from all my friends and everything, so she could make me a prisoner,” Hales said. “I was almost a prisoner.”

Furlough told people Hales was her mother and had developed dementia. She blocked calls from Hales’ friends and intercepted her mail.

“Hales is very intelligent and shows no signs of age-related mental deficiencies,” according to Hatfield’s report.

Hales lost antique clocks and other family heirlooms, along with everyday belongings such as garden tools, because Furlough never paid the storage unit rent.

When Hales was injured in a fall, Furlough obtained a power of attorney to transfer $175,000 from Hales’ retirement savings into her own account, according to Raman. Furlough stuffed Hales’ computer under a bed, so she could not check her financial records online.

“I was in a strange place with no friends and nobody to help me,” Hales said at Tuesday’s hearing.

Furlough used Hales’ credit card at least 53 times in Las Vegas, police said.

The police report exposes Furlough’s brief but lavish Sin City lifestyle: room reservations at the Bellagio and Wynn; tickets for the Bellagio buffet; nearly $400 at a nail salon; a $2,000, 10-seat hot tub; a $420 bill from the Melting Pot restaurant; $515 at Michael Kors; $477 at Coach; along with hundreds of dollars at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Petsmart.

Furlough used Hales’ money to take helicopter tours and a trip to New York City, police said. She also bought an $18,000 2006 royal blue Hummer H3, a $30,000 2013 Polaris RZR 4 900X Dune Buggy, a $1,250 trailer and a 2000 Allegro Motorhome RV for $2,500, according to police.

She told Hales she had to use some of her money for gall bladder surgery, but police said she actually had different operations: a “tummy tuck, thigh reduction and breast reduction.”

Furlough, who weighed 250 pounds when she met Hales, went from a size 20 to a size 8, according to the detective.

Defense lawyer Shane Zeller said Furlough’s “No. 1 goal” was to pay back Hales.

Furlough initially told police it was a “convoluted mess” and claimed Hales had stolen two Faberge eggs, a 32-inch flat-screen television, a DVD player and her grandmother’s Rolex watch.

On Tuesday, she admitted that “this did get way out of hand.”

Furlough and Hales were being evicted from the rented home even before investigators started calling.

Furlough, who also went by Karen Burkett and Karen Lindsey, traveled throughout the country while on the run. She spent time in Tennessee, Alabama, Michigan and Illinois, working trade shows for a knife company, according to police.

Furlough even left her husband, taking $15,000 in cash and his English bulldog, police said. She changed her phone number, so he couldn’t track her down.

But on Dec. 18, Furlough ran a red light in Houston while driving her new boyfriend’s car, and a police officer discovered she had warrants for her arrest. Less than two months later, she pleaded guilty to one count of theft and one count of forgery, summarizing everything authorities could trace in Las Vegas.

Raman, who said Furlough had a federal bank fraud conviction and faces credit card fraud charges in Michigan, called her actions in Las Vegas “disturbing.”

District Judge Kerry Earley said that’s an understatement.

“I don’t think disturbing is a strong enough word,” the judge said. “I really don’t know a word that adequately explains what you did to this woman.”

Hales still owes $10,000 in back taxes and fines to the IRS because Furlough told her she would file a return. Instead, Furlough made sure she got the money, authorities said.

Hales moved back to Oklahoma. Now 77, she lives off her pension and social security. She doesn’t expect to get the money back from Furlough, but she still thinks fondly of Las Vegas. Hales planned to do a little gambling while back in town and then perhaps some traveling.

“I’m gonna go on a cruise, so I can meet a man,” she said after Furlough’s sentencing. “I can be free now, and I won’t have to think about her anymore.”

Contact reporter David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker

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