Caretaker accused of duping ailing Mission Hills couple into signing financial rights away

MISSION HILLS, Kan. - They were a power couple in Kansas City.   

Nadine Smith raised two sons and started the pet rescue group Animal Haven. Burks Smith co-founded Smith and Loveless Inc. in Lenexa.

"(He) went from nothing to a self-made millionaire," said Wayne Smith, the couple's son.   

The Smiths lived in the upscale Mission Hills area from 1965 until their deaths. In their final years, the couple required constant in-home care. They hired Norvelle Ahart to help.

"Initially, Norvelle was charming," said Wayne Smith.  "We had no clue that things were going on behind the scenes."     

Johnson County court records state that in 2000, Burks Smith signed a durable power of attorney over to Ahart, giving her "full authority over his medical and financial affairs" instead of his sons.  Weeks later, Smith also signed a revised will at a time when his "mental cognitive ability was significantly impaired," according to court records.

The Johnson County District Attorney's office charged Ahart with felony mistreatment of a dependent adult.  

"(Ahart) was able to convince Mr. Smith that his sons wanted to put him in a rest home," Assistant District Attorney Vanessa Riebli explained. "So that caused a separation in the family."

Court records state that between 2005 and 2008, Ahart and her family were paid at least $773,000 from Smith's investments. His portfolio dropped from $4.9 million in 2000 to $1.5 million in 2008.

Ahart was found guilty. She was sentenced to two years probation and 30 days in jail.

She is now appealing the conviction.  

When asked what advice he would give someone with an aging parent, Wayne Smith simply said, "Beware."

"Once they get control, you're pretty much done if they're smart at all," he added.   

In an effort to help you gain information about crimes against the aging, members of the Johnson County DA's office, Kansas Legal Services and Adult Protective Services will be taking viewer calls and answering questions in the Call For Action offices on Tuesday. 

Call 816-932-4321 between 4 p.m. and 6:30 pm to ask your questions. 

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