Woman sentenced to prison in vulnerable adult embezzlement case 

January 30, 2024

Jessica Englebrecht

Woman sentenced to prison in vulnerable adult embezzlement case 

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

LUDINGTON – A 36-year-old Scottville woman convicted of embezzling from vulnerable adults who are wards of the court was sentenced to serve a minimum of nearly three years in prison in Mason County’s 51st Circuit Court Tuesday, Jan. 30.

Jessica Michelle Englebrecht was also ordered to pay $22,347 in restitution, fines and costs.

Englebrecht was found guilty by a jury, Sept. 14, of all 11 charged counts for abusing her authority as a guardian and embezzling from vulnerable adults and commingling their funds.  

Englebrecht is convicted of eight counts of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult – $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, a five-year felony; one count of vulnerable adults – caregiver commingling funds/obstructing investigations, a two-year high court misdemeanor; one count of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult – $200-$1,000, a one-year misdemeanor; and one count of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult – less than $200, a 93-day misdemeanor. 

Jessica Englebrecht and her attorney Tracie Dinehart.

Judge Susan K. Sniegowski ordered the following sentence Tuesday:

Count 1: embezzlement from vulnerable adult: 23 months to five years in prison and $1,404 in restitution;

Count 2: embezzlement from vulnerable adult: 23 months to five years in prison and $1,918 in restitution;

Count 3: embezzlement from vulnerable adult: 23 months to five years in prison and $1,528 in restitution;

Cout 4: embezzlement from vulnerable adult: 23 months to five years in prison and $3,008 in restitution;

Count 5: embezzlement from vulnerable adult: 23 months to five years in prison and $1,300 in restitution;

Count 6: embezzlement from vulnerable adult: 23 months to five years in prison and $5,566 in restitution;

Count 7: embezzlement from vulnerable adult: 23 months to five years in prison and $2,169 in restitution;

Count 8: embezzlement from vulnerable adult: 23 months to five years in prison and $2,334 in restitution;

Count 9: vulnerable adults – caregiver commingling funds/obstructing investigations: two days in jail with for credit two days served and $132 in restitution;

Count 10: embezzlement from a vulnerable adult – $200-$1,000: two days in jail with credit for two days served and $1,950 in restitution; and

Count 11: caregiver commingling funds/obstructing investigations: one to two years in prison.

Counts 1-10 will be served concurrently, and count 11 will be served consecutively, said the judge, who ordered Englebrecht to go directly into custody of a Mason County sheriff’s deputy after the hearing.

“These victims were poor — they were destitute ,” said Michigan Assistant Attorney General Daniel Gunderson, who prosecuted the case. The money stolen from them “meant the difference

Michigan Assistant Attorney General Daniel Gunderson and Mason County Probation Officer Mark Richardson.

between being able to afford a haircut or buy a slice of pizza. This is more than a six-month jail sentence — this is an MDOC sentence.”

Defense attorney Tracie Dinehart noted that her client had never been convicted of any crimes previously. “These are her first crimes ever — she has no record.” The defense attorney said Englebrecht did not intentionally break the law. “This case was a blatant accident. It wasn’t intended to be criminal.” The attorney said Englebrecht did not receive proper training for her role as guardian.

Dinehart asked the judge for a probation sentence, so Englebrecht could continue to work to pay off her restitution. “In my heart of hearts, I believe my client is very remorseful.”

Englebrecht made no comment during the sentencing hearing.

“This is an extensive pattern of behavior that took advantage of people who are vulnerable,” said Judge Sniegowski. “This is far more than a mistake and not understanding. There were a significant number of victims; a significant amount of money; and it requires a significant sentence.”

Englebrecht rejected a plea deal, Aug. 18, that would have included no jail time. Assistant AG Gunderson offered a plea agreement in which Englebrecht could have pleaded “no contest” to one felony count of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult and a misdemeanor of commingling funds from a vulnerable adult. The other nine charges would have been dismissed.

Michigan State Police began investigating Englebrecht in 2019 in conjunction with Adult Protective Services, said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. Englebrecht embezzled more than $20,000 from 10 vulnerable adults who she was appointed as a guardian and/or conservator for from 2017-2019.  

“Those the state trusts in court-appointed positions of power as guardians and conservators must be held to the highest standards and must be held accountable when they use their position criminally,” said Nessel in a press release. Nessel has made elder abuse a top priority for her administration, assisting in the creation of the Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force. The task force has outlined several recommendations to improve protections for Michigan’s elderly populations, including proposing a certification requirement for those serving as guardians. Currently, no qualification or training is necessary to be a guardian, just a judge’s appointment. 

Englebrecht told the Traverse City Record Eagle in a May 22, 2022 article that she was being unfairly targeted by the AG’s office. 

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