A doctor once named medical director of the year at Payson Care Center has been indicted along with his wife on charges of theft from a vulnerable adult.
Payson residents Dr. Michael Lowe and Heather Driscoll-Lowe were indicted by a Gila County grand jury on Oct. 27. Michael was formally charged with a class two felony and Heather, a class three, said Payson Police Chief Don Engler.
The indictments allege that the Lowes unlawfully took control of assets belonging to Alicia Christopherson, while acting in a position of trust and confidence, said Engler in a press release.
Dr. Lowe’s attorney did not return a phone call for comment as of press time Friday.
According to a police report from Det. Michael McAnerny, Christopherson died in October of 2004 at age 80. Before she died, she allegedly signed all of her assets over to Michael Lowe, her attending physician, while she was in hospice.
Through a lengthy investigation involving multiple subpoenas to financial institutions, a search of the Lowes’ properties and Michael Lowe’s medical office, McAnerny determined that Michael Lowe had allegedly befriended Christopherson so he could claim her assets, which totaled around $400,000.
Once Michael Lowe had gained Christopherson’s trust, he had her sign everything over to him “when it was clear she was not in a good state of mind,” McAnerny wrote in the police report. “Alicia Christopherson was a vulnerable adult and Michael Lowe took advantage of her.”
According to records obtained by McAnerny, Michael Lowe became Christopherson’s benefactor two weeks after she was admitted into hospice care. She died three months later while under his treatment.
On the day of Christopherson’s death, Michael Lowe filed a death claim for $126,000 in an ING account held by Christopherson. He later deposited the money into his account.
“Dr. Lowe obviously knew what policies Alicia Christopherson had prior to her death, because he found this and made the claim the day of her death,” McAnerny said in his police report.
It wasn’t until five years after her death that Christopherson’s step-grandson, Roger Wolfman, learned that Christopherson had passed and Michael Lowe had received everything.
Wolfman contacted the Payson Police Department because he believed Christopherson’s original trust, which left everything to him, had been altered so Michael Lowe was the beneficiary.
Wolfman claims that Christopherson was not in a condition to legally modify her living trust when she signed over her assets to Michael Lowe. Through an investigation, McAnerny concluded Christopherson was not in a state of mind to alter her will.
David Glow, one of Christopherson’s treating physicians in the month preceding her death, told McAnerny that Christopherson was not of sound mind to make any decisions regarding her will based on the medications she was taking and her deteriorating medical condition. Christopherson’s medical condition is unknown because any mention of it was blacked out in the police report for confidentiality reasons.
Glow said in the police report it was wrong for Michael Lowe to take anything from Christopherson because it is unethical to receive gifts from hospice patients. At his employment, Michael Lowe signed an agreement saying he would not take gifts or monies from RTA Hospice and Palliative Care patients.
“They will never accept money or anything of large value and, if they do, they have to disclose that information to RTA Hospice,” McAnerny wrote. “Dr. Lowe obviously violated this policy by accepting large amounts of money (…) Further, he was her primary care provider while he was in charge of her medical treatment, which also does not look good on Dr. Lowe’s behalf.”
Regarding Michael Lowe’s wife, Heather Driscoll-Lowe, McAnerny said in the police report she took advantage of Christopherson by writing a $14,000 check from Christopherson’s personal bank account for a Land Rover never driven or used by Christopherson. “The vehicle purchase was not for any means for Alicia Christopherson, which meant it was for the benefit of Heather Driscoll-Lowe and Michael Lowe,” McAnerny wrote.
According to Roundup archives, in 2005, Michael was named Life Care Centers of America’s Southwest Division Medical Director of the Year for his work at Payson Care Center.