A smoking trash bag led detectives in McMinn County to a woman who was working as a caregiver for an elderly couple and now faces multiple drug and theft charges.
Angelia Diane Bentley, 49, is charged with stealing from the couple, endangering them and making methamphetamine, according to the McMinn County Sheriff's Office.
"It is simply a heinous crime to pose as a caregiver to the elderly, all the while stealing from them and possibly using their residence to make meth," Sheriff Joe Guy said in a news release.
Bentley, who lives at 3000 Highway 11 S. in Athens, is charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, reckless endangerment, having meth-making chemicals in precursor amounts, six counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, possession of narcotics, theft under $500 and theft over $1,000. She is being held on a $150,000 bond in the McMinn County Justice Center.
The investigation started when a deputy responded to a possible fire in a garbage truck on Sept. 10, the sheriff said, where he found a smoking bag and realized it contained the components used to make meth.
When detectives examined the bag, they found a receipt from a home improvement store, Guy said. From video surveillance at the store, they identified a white woman who bought the plastic tubing listed on the receipt.
Detectives also connected the contents of the trash bag to the home of Lloyd and Maryellen Kimbrough, an elderly couple, the sheriff said. The detectives met Bentley, who had been working as a caregiver for the Kimbroughs for several months, at the Kimbroughs' home, he said.
They searched Bentley's car and found controlled substances and the couple's personal information and driver's licenses, Guy said. They also discovered Bentley was using the Kimbroughs' ATM card to make unauthorized withdrawals from their bank account, the sheriff said.
Nell Tanner, case manager at the Southwest Area Agency on Aging and Disability, said caregiver theft is hard to prevent, but elderly people should run a background check before hiring a caregiver.
"And trust your instincts when you are interviewing someone," she added. "Red flags do come up sometimes."
Cases in which caregivers steal from the people they're caring for are not that unusual, she said.
"I would say it happens more than you think," she said. "Not a lot, but it does happen."
The Kimbroughs declined to comment.