CHARLOTTE, Mich. — A Michigan mother has admitted embezzling more than $400,000 from her 9-year-old son's estate.
Kasie Pruden-Rivera, 32, of Eaton County, Mich., pleaded no contest to one count of embezzling more than $100,000, and is scheduled to be sentenced June 28 in Eaton County Circuit Court.
She faces up to 20 years in prison, but based on the lack of previous convictions, her sentencing guidelines probably will top out at 20 months, Eaton County Prosecutor Doug Lloyd said.
Pruden-Rivera's son, Haiden Rivera, has cerebral palsy, permanent brain damage and other health problems, according to court records.
At a hearing that led to the charge, Eaton County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Adam Simon testified that Pruden-Rivera received nearly $650,000 on behalf of her son as part of a settlement after Haiden suffered birth trauma.
She spent about $240,000 on a house near Charlotte that is owned by her son's estate, but investigators could not find any other justifiable expenses, Simon testified.
“The rest of the money is unaccounted for and nobody can get her to call them back,” the deputy said.
Pruden-Rivera also pleaded guilty to one count each of animal cruelty and having unlicensed dogs. Both are misdemeanors, and she'll be prohibited from owning a pet for five years, court records show.
Her attorney did not immediately respond to a message left seeking comment.
The Lansing (Mich.) State Journal reported in November that Pruden-Rivera, who in court records also is listed as Kassie Rivera or Kasie Rivera, is being sued in civil court in connection with the missing money.
Records from that case show that Pruden-Rivera and her former husband Higinio Rivera, who was a soldier at the time of Haiden’s birth, sued the Army after their son suffered seizures and brain damage shortly after birth at an Army hospital at Fort Hood, Texas.
The couple eventually reached a settlement agreement that called for the Justice Department to place more than $3 million into a reversionary trust that can only be used for Haiden’s medical care. If he dies before the funds are depleted the balance is returned to the government.
Another chunk of money, about $550,000, went directly to Haiden to pay for living expenses that may not be directly tied to his permanent disability.
Kasie Pruden-Rivera was named conservator of his estate, which meant she was supposed to manage Haiden’s finances by spending his money only in ways that directly benefited Haiden.
But rather than deposit the money into the restricted account, Pruden-Rivera spent the money as if it were her own, said Ken O’Deen, an attorney who was named Haiden’s financial conservator after his mother was removed.
Pruden-Rivera and Rivera's divorce was recently finalized, with Rivera granted custody of Haiden and the couple's other son.
Child protective services workers had previously placed the children into Rivera's care on a temporary basis after finding animal feces, rotting food, garbage and dirty diapers throughout Pruden-Rivera's residence, according to court records.