Disabled Woman Exploited

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Police Department announced Friday the arrest of a woman on charges of financially exploiting a mentally disabled victim.  

According to police, 39 year-old Deanna Harris of Columbia tricked a mentally disabled woman into writing her more than $7,000 in checks.  Police say she asked the victim for some change to buy a soda for a friend. The next day she told the victim the soda made her friend sick and the victim needed to pay for her friend's medical bills, or else police would arrest the victim.  Police say the victim followed Harris's demands.  

The victim's caseworker at New Horizon's Community Support Center began to put the pieces together when they noticed the victim didn't have enough money to buy groceries. A New Horizon employee said they help mentally disabled people manage their daily lives, like paying bills. "When they have the financial involvement that they do with some of the clients they assist, they kind of know the general financial picture of folks and so, when you have a situation where someone had money and now they are having trouble paying for everyday items like food and clothing, that raises some red flags," said Columbia Police Sergeant, Jill Wieneke.  

Harris told police the victim wrote her $2,000 in checks for skin care products she had sold the victim.  "Obviously we don't believe that to be true, $2,000 is a hefty price to pay for skin care products, also that sounds pretty suspicious to investigators," said Weineke.    

Harris has an extensive record, including another charge for exploitation of an elderly or disabled person and several other charges of stealing.  

The Boone County Sheriffs Department is currently holding Harris on a $50,000 cash only bond.