A Chatfield couple found guilty of taking more than $274,000 from an elderly family member’s estate were given probation Tuesday.
Jason and Jessica Polikowsky were found guilty of taking funds from Jason’s grandmother, Rose Polikowsky, for their own use. Rose had been suffering dementia when, in 2011, Jason, Jessica and Jason’s father, Donald Polikowsky, persuaded her to give them power of attorney over her estate, according to court records.
Jason and Jessica were given a year in jail each and up to 20 years of probation for 11 counts of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. The two were found guilty in May after a trial but maintained they did nothing wrong through the sentencing hearing.
“She has been gifting me things since I was a child,” he said.
“I would never have taken advantage of my grandma,” he said. “She meant the world to me.”
Investigators documented more than $150,000 in cash “gifts” to the couple from Rose’s accounts; $75,000 toward a down payment on a house for the couple and more than $21,000 for purchases of business equipment and recreational vehicles. Changes were also made on the beneficiaries on her life insurance accounts and payments were halted on Rose’s Rochester home.
The couple blames Rose’s other children, Gary Polikowsky and Diana Parks, who previously executed her estate, for the financial troubles Rose began to face, according to investigators.
Jason began his statement saying he apologized “to anyone I might have hurt.”
Jessica tearfully repeated Jason’s opening line and said little else.
Rose’s younger sister, Shirley Schroeder, read her victim impact statement before sentencing. In it she recalled her older sister’s sadness as money disappeared.
“She trusted you and you let her down,” Schroeder said. “You took advantage of her love and trust.
“I can’t understand why you would do this to your own grandmother,” she continued. “She was always kind to you.”
Schroeder also recounted how Rose was certain it was Parks and Gary Polikowsky who were draining her estate.
“You continued to plant that seed in her mind,” Schroeder said.
Rose died August 2017. Gary died June this year.
Schroeder said she wished both Rose and Gary were still around to hear an apology from the couple.
Schroeder said after the hearing she was disappointed the couple only received probation but also expressed relief the legal ordeal appeared to be over.
James McGeeney, who represented Jessica and Jason, asked for probation saying the couple would be better able to pay back the estate by staying out of prison and working at Jason’s Chatfield-based business. He said that aside from alcohol-related convictions, Jason has little prior criminal history and that Jessica had no criminal convictions prior to this case.
“I know my clients in their heart of hearts still believe that their grandmother wanted them to have the money,” McGeeney said.
“Keeping them in the community would enable them to both be supervised and make restitution,” he added.
Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem argued for prison time. He questioned the couple’s ability to make restitution.
“The money is gone,” Ostrem said. “It’s all been spent on themselves.”
“They could have stopped,” he said. “They could have taken care of their grandmother as she wished.”
Judge James A. Fabian said the presentence investigation recommended probation despite some of the counts against each carrying up to five years in prison upon conviction. He noted that Donald, who entered an Alford plea in April 2016 to charges against him and agreed to make $66,000, also avoided prison time.
“You have been given the opportunity to make good,” Fabian said. “If you don’t take that opportunity, prison is waiting for you.”
Jessica was ordered to begin serving her 365-day jail sentence April 1 next year with a 45-day stay with work-release privileges. She would continue to serve 45-day terms April 1 each year for the next four years after that. If she is in good standing after serving five 45-day jail terms, the rest of her jail sentence would be forgiven.
Jason was ordered to serve 365 days under similar conditions with his terms being served Nov. 1 beginning next year and Nov. 1 the following years. Both were given credit for jail time served.