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Victim’s Cousin Begs Judge to Order a Tougher Sentence
By Echo Menges
NEMOnews Media Group
Shelbyville, MO – Friday, July 9, 2021 – The final chapter of the criminal case against Amanda Buckman, 45, of Shelbina, unfolded in Shelby County Associate Circuit Court on Friday, though Buckman herself was not present for the continuation of her own sentencing hearing. Buckman’s attorney attended on her behalf instead.
Shelby County Associate Circuit Judge Mike Greenwell scheduled the hearing to give the victim a chance to be heard and represented in court, which was not done prior to Judge Greenwell’s acceptance of a plea deal between Shelby County Prosecutor Jordan Force and Buckman. Greenwell sentenced Buckman to serve five years of probation in a suspended imposition of sentence weeks earlier on June 25. Should Buckman successfully complete her probation, the felony charge of financial exploitation of an elderly/disabled person would be removed from her criminal record.
Buckman has admitted to stealing $11,075 in August and October of 2020 from a nursing home resident at the Salt River Community Care in Shelbina, while being employed at the nursing home. Buckman turned herself in to Shelbina police on February 4, 2021, according to court documents.
The original Sentencing Hearing went on without representation of the victim, due to technical problems involving the court’s video system WEBEX. According to the victim’s representative Cindy Hubert, she was unable to connect to the platform during the hearing.
On Friday, Hubert was able to connect to the courtroom online and represented her cousin in court.
Hubert’s voice was first heard in the courtroom when court was going into session at approximately 10:00 a.m. Her face was not displayed during the proceeding.
“Hello, can you hear me?” Hubert asked.
Judge Greenwell briefly conversed with her, asking her to turn her microphone off until the case was called and began hearing an array of cases set for the same time.
Thirty-nine minutes later, Hubert was again heard on the court WEBEX system after another online attendee could be heard speaking.
“Ms.Hubert, we’re taking up another case right now,” Judge Greenwell said.
“Your Honor, that wasn’t me. It was someone else who just signed on,” Hubert replied.
Another voice could be heard saying, “I apologize.”
Judge Greenwell, Shelby County Prosecutor Jordan Force and various attorneys worked their way through the docket of cases taking up all but one case before calling case number 21SB-CR00024-01 in the State of Missouri vs. Amanda Buckman effectively emptying out the courtroom and online system of defendants, which left six court staff and three members of the public present including two Shelby County Herald reporters and one defendant waiting to be called.
After ensuring Hubert was still connected to the video system, Judge Greenwell briefly excused himself before reentering the courtroom and taking up the case.
The continuation of the Buckman Sentencing Hearing was held at 11:47 a.m., which is approximately 107 minutes after court was called into session.
“At this time I would let you make your statement. And, I want to tell you it’s directed to what this case is about as far as Ms. Buckman getting a, it’s my understanding, as far as getting a debit card of (the victim) and using it at ATMs to withdraw money. So, if you want to go ahead and make a statement at this time, I will listen,” Judge Greenwell said to Hubert.
Hubert went on record first apologizing for speaking when court went into session to be sure she was properly connected.
“That’s fine. You don’t need to apologize,” Judge Greenwell told Hubert.
“I want to first thank you for allowing me to do this. And second, I know that this is your courtroom, and you run it the way that you see fit, and I very much respect that. But, I would like to be allowed to just read what I have here related to this situation because I do not believe that anybody has really heard the other side of the story and I’ll skip the part about the victim’s advocate and how that fell apart because she said that Amanda was in jail and she wasn’t because Mr. John Wilcox sent me an article saying she wasn’t in jail. So everything I have shared with her she said was going directly to Ms. Force I sort of (inaudible) and had a falling-out from,” said Hubert.
“I don’t need to hear about the Victim Advocate Ms. Foreman. I know her to be really competent and good at doing her job. So, I don’t know what happened but at this point, I’m just here for a statement about the facts of this case, and not about other surrounding matters,” Judge Greenwell said while talking over Hubert.
“So, what I please beg you is to allow me to just read what I’ve written and it will just go much faster if I will read it, and please, if you will, just let me finish and say whatever you’d like to say, okay. Otherwise, I will get so distracted,” Hubert told the Court before beginning her statement.
Victim’s Sentencing Hearing Statement Given By Cindy Hubert
There are two sides to every story. It seems like people are under the impression that Amanda saw his credit card and got tempted and used it, and that’s not what happened. He didn’t have any credit cards.
(The victim) lived in kind of a rough area of St. Louis on purpose. He worked for 40 straight years at Schnuck’s grocery store in the produce department saving and scrimping on everything to save for his Missouri dream home when he retired, okay.
And, upon retirement, he bought a beautiful home in Bowling Green.
Unfortunately, April 26, 2020, he was rushed to a Hannibal hospital for emergency surgery. While recuperating from necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating bacteria, his dream home was burnt to the ground. He lost everything. It was a total loss. I mean everything, his pets, all documents, his wallet with ID, credit cards – everything. So, there were no cards for her to steal.
He was in shock, tears – especially for his pets. At the same time of the shock, his eyesight was quickly deteriorating, as well as his memory. He’s never married, doesn’t have any children, never had any siblings.
I’m based here in Los Angeles.
Amanda led me to believe that she was a licensed clinical social worker. As an RN myself, I’m well aware of the Master’s Degree needed for her position. I trusted her. I believed her. I only became suspicious a bit when she refused to help me get the information Liberty Mutual needed to pay out for the destruction of his home. All they wanted was one simple award, which they had there, but she refused to send it to me. He tried sending it but could not, due to his eyesight.
They wanted it because they needed it to set up direct deposit into my cousin’s checking account.
In the meantime, I was waiting on a POA (power of attorney) from the lawyer she referred me to, John Wilcox. This is August of 2020.
My cousin had arrived at Salt River May 21st of 2020, right when COVID was breaking out.
John sent me a draft but later told me Amanda talked to (the victim) and they both decided not to put me on as POA, or he could put me on but as one who is not in charge now but could be if he ever really needs it.
Well, I was frustrated because his credit cards were frozen even though he had money and I was trying to get them unfrozen, but forget about all that, okay.
So, anyway, Mr. Wilcox said it was to kick-in when absolutely necessary.
She was aware of the checks coming from Liberty Mutual. My cousin’s PTSD, his eyesight, his memory failure, and COVID made it difficult for me to do almost anything about it. I couldn’t come back there etcetera, etcetera. I couldn’t speak on his behalf on the phone without him being on the phone. He was in somewhat a diminished capacity. He was in shock when it all happened.
Now, this is what she knew of. Ms. Buckman, like I said, was well aware of my cousin’s situation. She also was aware that money from his insurance payout, once it was gone, my cousin’s only income was his Social Security combined with his pension of $3,500 a month, okay.
That’s nothing close to the $7,000 a month Salt River charges him for staying there.
In the meantime, she also did not do what actually was in her job description. That was apply for his Medicare Part D, etcetera. That would save him approximately $1,000 for his insulin and medications that was coming out of pocket. And that’s only open at certain times and it was during her time of theft. He had emotional and immense physical needs.
Nonetheless, Ms. Buckman had no problem calling US Bank on September 4, 2020, ordering checks, quote unquote, and then ordering not one but two debit cards connected to his two separate checking accounts, okay. She picked the temporary cards up the same day, which is why US Bank feels somebody is, they’re investigating it, and feel somebody at Shelbina branch had to be also involved. There’s more people involved in this because he theoretically had picked them up – and he’s blind in a wheelchair, okay.
But, anyway, she picked them up on September 4, and the bank statement and/or US Bank will tell you, the bank statements are right there with Ms. Force. I assure you the thefts started the same day of $500 a day. And this is the same day that Liberty Mutual’s first check was hand deposited into his account.
She also, because he had two checking accounts, she transferred half the money over to his other checking account so that the other debit card could be used at the same time and she would have enough money to take out $1,000 per day.
A nurse from Salt River, and a mandated reporter, alerted Ms. Ratliff the Administrator on November 7, 2020, of concerns regarding Amanda’s behavior. The theft stopped immediately after DHSS (Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services) legally had to be notified. And it’s all evidence on his statements.
My cousin’s embezzlement via debit card actually occurred, not what the public records have written down. I don’t know where those dates came from – not from his own documents. Five to six thousand dollars per month, tax-free, stolen over two months, only stopped when the nurse reported it to the Administrator.
I do not believe she would have ever stopped until he was broke. She was going on as fast as she could to drain his accounts. And if you looked at the evidence in the bank statements, I think you would be really in shock and probably in agreement with me, okay. I’m sure that you’ve never seen them. I don’t think you would have made such a deal with her if you would have known the other side of the story. I’m just thinking.
Judge Greenwell, I can’t even understand how without being clear of any of this you will award her for turning herself in. I’m guessing you probably didn’t know. And probably impressed that she got momentarily tempted by seeing a credit card and had a lapse of judgment.
I doubt you knew she took his identity and ordered the two debit cards that he was totally oblivious of. In fact, he had three charge cards and never believed in debit cards, and has never owned one. Nor at this time, while going blind, did he need one. He had no idea she was doing all of this and would have continued if the nurse at Salt River hadn’t reported it.
As far as turning herself in, why wouldn’t she? Everyone knew her. She was the only one that was accessing his money, okay. He was the only resident of the facility that Mari, the Office Manager, didn’t collect money from.
The ATMs used were in Shelbina and Hannibal where she drove the residents to their appointments because she’s not a licensed Social Worker and therefore she does a variety of job duties. So, that’s where the two cards were used.
She turned herself in only to make herself appear different than she is. She knew that the camera footage would show, you know, what it will show, and I’m sure she truly hoped the Judge sentencing her, you, Your Honor, would never hear the other side of the story. The second side of the story, okay.
I beg you not to allow her to basically get away with such calculus egregious behavior against someone so vulnerable already struggling greatly.
The last thing you need to hear is when I was on the phone with the bank in Shelbina, I was not technically his power of attorney at the time. He was mandated by law to, with me, through me hearing, thousand dollar amounts being taken out every other day from his two accounts, five-hundred from each.
He couldn’t even get through the call – telling him how much he lost. The shock of him hearing, having him hear the bank teller run down the amounts of withdrawal – what he saved his entire life. He couldn’t handle it.
It was like the final nail in his coffin of unthinkable acts.
I was then informed by the police, when she turned herself in. Ms. Ratliff told me about that, and we were still waiting on things.
Two weeks later she somehow had the money to hire a lawyer and bail herself out.
I was told she would do jail time, she would never be able to work in a job with her 38-hour certificate of being a Social Service designee again. I was told that by Jolie Foreman and Chris Ratliff. Ms. Ratliff also tells me that she should also be responsible for all the money that he had to pay out for his Medicare Part D, which was close to $1,000 per month. I’m not sure what the actual amount would be but I know it was quite a bit.
And also, the people there at the place, they have some wonderful workers there, they have already applied for certain things for him that have saved him money immensely. And this is stuff that she was hired to do.
I very much appreciate you allowing me to get through this without getting up there interrupting me. I just wanted to say Ms. Foreman had promised me she was in jail and would remain there. And, it was Mr. Wilcox who sent me an article from the newspaper.
The dates of the theft also do not coincide with his bank statements, and that is to, I believe, not correlate the deposit of the Liberty Mutual check with the date she took out the debit cards in his name, and to not correlate the nurse reporting to Ms. Ratliff the incident that needed to be reported to DHSS – and that’s when they stopped.
I’m asking you, please consider all of this because this is what she did. And I’ll stop here but if my cousin was independently wealthy, do you know what? I would not have went through this. Life is too short to even deal with this. I would figure she needed it more than him, it’s not going to bother him, he doesn’t even need to know about it. I would try to hope that she wouldn’t do it to someone else but I would still stick up for her and say that, well, she was probably only doing it because she knows he’ll never miss it, and never needs it. And, that would be my take on it.
But with her knowing all of this, and doing this, and making such a grand plan conceived to do this. I think it was only fair for the community, and for my cousin, to know the other side of the story.
So, I hope you will consider what’s happened here. I thank you so much for not interrupting me.
Judge Greenwell asked Force if there was anything the State wanted to add, which she did.
“No, Your Honor. I just would like to say on the record Jolie Foreman, the Victim’s Advocate, would never have given false information if Ms. Buckman was not in jail. I know she didn’t tell her that she was in jail. If that was miscommunicated or misunderstood Ms. Hubert, I am sorry about that, she,” Force said before being cut off by Hubert.
“No, she argued with me,” said Hubert before being cut off by the Judge.
“Ms. Hubert, this isn’t your time. I was asking Ms. Force if she has anything. She has the floor,” said Judge Greenwell.
“So, I just wanted that on the record Judge. I saw extensive communication. I was included in all of that back and forth between the two of them, and I know Jolie in our office certainly did her best to communicate and receive all of the information that she sent in, and then provide that to the police department – if there were other things that they should look into. I feel sorry that she doesn’t feel satisfied with the information and services she received from us. I appreciate the information she provided in her statement today,” Force told the Court.
The Judge asked John Russell, Buckman’s attorney, if he had anything to add on behalf of the Defendant.
“Your Honor, it goes without saying that what my client did was wrong. It was morally wrong. It was against the laws of the State. She confessed to it early on. She cooperated with law enforcement. She came in here to your courtroom and plead guilty and took responsibility for her actions, paid restitution. I know the court considered all these factors, and I’d ask that this matter be closed,” said John Russell.
Judge Greenwell then explained his decision and gave background on how the process works to Hubert.
Judge Greenwell’s Decision and Statement In Court
Ms. Hubert, my job as a Judge is to determine, if there’s a hearing in front of me, what the facts are. Everybody in the whole criminal process has a job. Law enforcement has a job. They investigate crimes, and if they think a crime has been committed they present what they think is the evidence to the Prosecutor.
And then the Prosecutor looks at that and the Prosecutor determines if a crime has been committed. If they determine a crime has been committed, they file it. But the Prosecutor doesn’t get involved in investigating – that’s for law enforcement, not the Prosecutor’s Office.
I don’t get involved in investigating or I don’t get involved in the Prosecutor’s job. You know, there may be a lot of things out there I don’t know about, and I’m not supposed to know about it because I’m supposed to be fair and impartial in case there is a trial in front of me. I owe that to everybody involved – to be fair and impartial.
What you describe, Ms. Buckman’s actions, I don’t doubt any of that at all. That’s what embezzlers do. They take advantage of people, and they’re not thinking that they’re ever going to get caught. A lot of times when they get caught, then they fess up. I’m not doubting anything you’re telling me. That happens.
And, what she did to (the victim) was terrible. It was bad. Based on my understanding what was presented to me, all the money the State could prove was taken was returned. The restitution was made. So, from what I have seen (the victim) has been made whole from this.
Now, if there are other things that have happened and you think other crimes committed, well then, you need to report that in to law enforcement and let them investigate it.
As far as any licensing that Ms. Buckman has, I have no control over licensing. That’s an administrative thing and that’s not in front of me. I have no control over that. I know Chris Ratliff. I don’t know what she told you. I have no control over what Ms. Ratliff told you.
Over the years on the bench, I’ve had several embezzlement cases and there have been times when people come before me with what’s called an open plea. When a plea deal is presented to me, I don’t get involved. You said something about me negotiating a deal with her. I don’t negotiate deals. That’s not my job. That’s between the prosecuting attorney and the defendant’s attorney, if there’s a plea deal in exchange for a guilty plea.
I don’t get involved in that. I trust Ms. Force to make a recommendation that is bearing of the circumstances based on what she thinks she could prove or not be able to prove in a case. I’ve never felt that she’s cut or made a bad deal. Everything seems to have been fair based on the evidence that I know, which is limited, but it has always been, I think, a fair deal.
What I was going to say is that I’ve had an embezzlement case or two where somebody has come before me – there is no plea deal – but they were caught, they want to plead guilty, they know they’re caught.
There’ve been people similar to Ms. Buckman. They don’t have a criminal record. They have families. They’re regular people. And, I’ve sentenced people not anything different than what’s happened here. You know, the main thing is I want to make sure the restitution gets to the victim.
I want to save the prison system for violent people, and not nonviolent people because our prisons are full already. We need to put the violent people there, not the nonviolent people.
I appreciate you wanting to make a statement but at this point, I’m not going to change the plea deal. I’m acceptable that I think it appears to be a fair deal in exchange for her guilty plea, and so I’m not gonna change my order of the other day. That’s my decision