HENDERSON, Nev. (KLAS) — A Clark County Fire Department battalion chief and his wife are accused of stealing around $150,000 from a legally blind veteran who was living with them over a period of more than two years, court documents said.
Steven Broadwell and Janelle Broadwell are facing charges of exploiting an older or vulnerable person and theft of $25,000 to $100,000 of an older or vulnerable person.
Investigators identified the victim, who is over 60 years old, as a veteran of the Korean War with blindness in one eye, difficulty hearing and multiple sclerosis, documents said. She approached Henderson police in June to report that her former caregiver had stolen from her, officers said.
The victim had been living with two other elderly people who had medical issues, and the three were pooling money to take care of living expenses when the victim asked Janelle Broadwell to help with some needs, documents said.
“[The victim] had known Janelle for several years and felt that she could be trusted,” documents said.
Janelle helped the victims with cleaning, home maintenance, rides to and from appointments, paying bills and other caretaker duties. She was paid about $60 to $70 per week for her services, documents said.
When one of the older women living with the victim died, the victim authorized Janelle to be on her bank account because she had difficulty seeing and managing her finances. Janelle was added to the account around January 2020, documents said.
When the other woman living with the victim died, the victim was displaced from her home and moved in with the Broadwells, documents said. The victim was reportedly paying rent of $200 or $300 per month, but that amount eventually increased to $500.
In December 2019, there was approximately $291,000 in the victim’s bank account. Between February 2020 to June 2022, the account’s total amount dropped “significantly” by roughly $115,000, according to documents.
Checks were paid directly from the account to Steven Broadwell and other family members. Some transactions also showed checks written from the account to complete home renovation projects, documents said.
One of those checks reportedly included $12,700 to pay for a new air conditioning unit in the Broadwell home. The victim told police she covered a portion of the unit because she could not survive without air conditioning, but she was expecting to be paid back, documents said.
“[The victim] said she wasn’t even aware that Janelle had done [the checks] at the time,” documents said.
The victim paid for a new water system for their home, customization in their closets, cabinets and a new Jeep registered to the couple, according to documents.
“It seems they used [the victim] as their own personal bank account to fund home improvement projects and other lavish spending. They left her with nothing in her accounts, and when her money ran out, they wanted her out of their home,” documents said.
The victim said that she bought many of her own things and chipped in on groceries. She said she did not mind this but became bothered by the way she was starting to be treated, describing that Janelle could turn “sharp” or “rude” and sometimes said “F you, b****,” according to documents.
Several checks signed by Janelle were made payable to “Cash” or Steve Broadwell and often read “Cash for [the victim]” in the memo line, documents said. The victim said the cash was not for her and that Janelle and Steve usually kept her checkbooks. She also noted that the pair liked to take trips to California but did not have money to pay for them.
A pool estimated to be worth roughly $35,000 was also completed in the home in April 2021, when the victim was living with the Broadwells, documents said.
Detectives found checks drawn from the victim’s account totaled more than $100,000, which was estimated to be “completely excessive and in no way benefitting [the victim] or her care,” after calculating the cost of her rent and living expenses over more than two years.
The victim’s credit card debt also increased significantly from August 2019 to June 2022: In January 2019, the balance was $9.99 from a recurring charge for a service for identity theft protection. By June 2022, the balance was at $9,569, according to documents.
The victim said that over the period of two years, money was moved from her bank account into a separate savings account. She said that Janelle and Steven changed the pin number on her bank account where her Social Security checks were deposited, and when she asked for it, Steven told her that he forgot it, documents said.
“[The victim] stated that once all the money from her account was depleted, Janelle and Steven kicked her out of their home without cause and without a proper eviction,” documents said. “[The victim] finally told Janelle and Steve that she went through a lot of money while living there and she was broke. Steve and Janelle agreed that because her condition was changing, maybe it was time to find another place to live.”
On June 14, 2022, Janelle called Henderson police to report that the victim had an “outburst” because Janelle wanted her to leave the house.
“Janelle… said the grandkids should not have to ‘hear those things from her. I mean, she could legally get me in trouble for what she says about me. I don’t… don’t want her in my house anymore,’” documents said.
The victim was no longer financially stable by that point and was forced to find temporary assisted living.
Several months after the victim reported this to police, another victim came forward and said he had been living with the Broadwells before the most recent victim had moved in. He claimed that the couple owed him $67,000 they borrowed to cover student loans and asked him to pay rent after he had spent approximately $250,000 fixing up their yard, according to documents.
The male victim added that he put in laundry room cabinets and a window seat and paid for a gazebo in the backyard, pavers, and a driveway for his motorhome. He told police that Janelle “turned on him” after he stopped giving money and found all his things packed up in boxes one day, documents said.
“They said they needed him out of the house because [the female victim] was moving in,” documents said. The male victim added that “when he found out how much money Steve made, he did not understand why they could not pay him back… they always spent money and would go on vacations and rent beach houses.”
In an interview with police, Janelle said taking care of the female victim had become a financial burden and that the money the victim offered them did not cover everything she needed for care, according to documents.
When detectives asked Janelle if the victim had paid for anything else in the house, “Janelle paused and said ‘that’s putting me on the spot’ and ‘she may have,’” documents said. “Janelle then stated, ‘I hope she’s not accusing me of taking from her because we were so generous with our time, our energy.’”
Both Janelle and Steven told police that the victim insisted on paying for things and “wanted everyone to believe that she was rich so she would spend a lot of money,” documents said. They reportedly accused the victim of antagonizing Janelle when she ran out of money, which is why they said they asked her to leave.
Henderson police arrested Steven and Janelle Broadwell on Jan. 12. Steven Broadwell has been employed by the Clark County Fire Department since 1995 and has been a battalion chief since 2018, according to the county.
“Battalion chiefs supervise between 7 and 8 fire stations each and are the department’s highest-ranked personnel in charge of multi-company incidents,” a county spokesperson said in a statement.
Both Broadwells were due in court Wednesday.