Posted: 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013

Woman who spent elderly man's life savings loses access to his money

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John Ogden and his wife had been married for 55 years. After her death, the retired Air Force sergeant planned to join his daughter and grandson in Tennessee. But within weeks, he instead joined a Mormon church near his North Carolina home.
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The blues introduced Senia Tauiautusa to Ogden. Tauiautusa was already married to someone else.

By Jodie Fleischer

COBB COUNTY, Ga. —

A Cobb County judge has decided an elderly man whose life savings was spent by a woman he barely knew now needs a permanent guardian and conservator to manage his decisions.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer first exposed the heartbreaking situation last month, after John Ogden's family contacted Channel 2 Action News for help.

After hearing three days of testimony, Probate Judge Kelli Wolk issued a final order saying, "By reason of mental illness and the inability to make reasonable decisions concerning himself and his property, such need appears to be permanent."

It's a small victory for Ogden's daughter, Rhonda Ogden Nelson, who's been fighting to get him back.

"I knew it was going to be bad but I never had any clue [it would be] as bad and as desperate as it is now," Nelson told Fleischer.

Nelson said after her mother died in March 2011, her father immediately joined a church for comfort, and immediately changed his spending habits.

"We found out in court that he has accumulated quite a bit of debt ... [it's] completely out of character for him," said Nelson.

He bought himself a Lincoln MKS and bought the church a 15-passenger van.

Then, within three weeks of meeting Senia Cobb, 35, he bought her a $48,000 Lincoln Navigator.

Fleischer found all three vehicles parked outside Senia's three-bedroom home in Smyrna, where Ogden now lives with Cobb, her husband Danny Tauiautusa and seven of their children.

"It's hard for me to see him have to live that way. Because I don't think he's safe. He's putting their needs before his own," Nelson said.

Court records show Ogden's bank accounts are now nearly empty.

Cobb signed $80,000 in checks to cash or herself, and made thousands of dollars in additional purchases.

Ogden paid tens of thousands of dollars for her new dog breeding business, and now many of the dogs have since died from neglect.

Ogden also purchased a half million-dollar home for Senia's family to live in. In court, he seemed unaware that her name is listed as a joint owner on that property.

At different points during his testimony, Ogden said he planned to marry Senia, her sister, their mother, and their grandmother during the past 2 ½ years since his wife died. The judge found that particularly troubling.

Fleischer tracked Senia down to ask about her relationship with Ogden, but she didn't want to tell her side of things.

In court, under oath, Senia exercised her Fifth Amendment right not to testify, to avoid self-incrimination.

Nelson says that's telling.

"If it were me and my intentions were being generous and kind and wanting to take care of him, I would have been there to plead my side of it," Nelson said.

The Cobb County Sheriff's office has already opened a criminal investigation into the case.

However, since Ogden does not consider himself a victim, and wants to remain with Senia, prosecutors would need to prove that he was financially exploited and that he's incompetent.

Wolk's assessment was that Ogden showed "signs of confusion and contradicted himself."

"It was hard I mean it was really hard putting [my] father up there and watching them pick him apart. It hurt," Nelson sobbed.

The judge found Ogden, "has now completely depleted his life's savings, mostly for the benefit of Senia and her immediate and extended family, at the cost of his own financial future wellbeing."

Nelson worries how Senia will treat him, now that she can no longer access his money.

"I want him away from them so he can settle down and kind of understand what is going on. Then we can start to rebuild our relationship," Nelson said.

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