Just two days after a Michigan mother received a $550,000 settlement check meant to benefit her son with cerebral palsy, she began plotting to spend it — and not to help the little boy, authorities say.
Kasie Pruden-Rivera, 32, contacted her attorney on June 26, 2014, about using the check she'd received June 24 to go on a buying binge: She wanted a house, furniture and a car, court records show. But when her attorney told her those purchases weren’t such a good idea, she cut off communication with him, the Lansing State Journal reports. And a year after receiving the check, almost all the money was gone, according to the bank.
Pruden-Rivera pleaded no contest Thursday to charges of embezzling more than $100,000 from her child, the Lansing State Journal reports. She faces up to 20 years in prison at her sentencing, which is scheduled for late June.
An Eaton County deputy testified that Pruden-Rivera — who was in charge of her son’s estate — took in a total of $650,000 on the 9-year-old child’s behalf, the newspaper reports. But beyond $240,000 spent buying a house (which the boy’s estate owns), the other expenses aren’t accounted for, the deputy said. “I believe she’s followed a path I advised against,” her former attorney, Neil Kimball, told a judge.
The funds were supposed to be put in a restricted account and spent exclusively in ways that directly benefited the child, who suffers from cerebral palsy and permanent brain damage, the newspaper reports. A judge was supposed to approve all spending. Instead, Pruden-Rivera funneled the money into her own bank account — and from there, it was spent on the home, multiple vehicles and “wild personal spending,” according to court records.
The $550,000 initial check was just one part of a $6.5 million settlement with the Justice Department in 2013, which Pruden-Rivera and her husband reached after suing a Texas Army hospital for birth trauma during their son’s delivery. The lawsuit alleged the care they received amounted to negligence and resulted in their son’s disability, according to court records.
The baby had been healthy at 8 1/2 months, when Pruden-Rivera’s labor was induced on Sept. 11, 2008, at Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Texas. Her former husband, Higinio Rivera, was a soldier at the time.
But the baby suffered brain damage because doctors ignored signs of distress in the child, failed to perform a cesarean section and administered Pitocin despite heart rate abnormalities, the lawsuit said.
And once he was born, seizures began, according to the lawsuit. Eventually the baby was airlifted to another hospital, where his cerebral palsy was diagnosed. Pruden-Rivera told the Killeen Daily Herald in 2013 that she instantly knew something was amiss when she saw her newborn son.
“He wasn’t crying when he was born,” Pruden-Rivera told the newspaper. “I knew that something wasn’t right. He wasn’t moving, he didn’t cry. He wouldn’t drink out of a bottle.”
Most of the multimillion-dollar settlement — about $3 million — can only be spent on medical care. Those funds go back to the federal government in the event that the child dies before its spent, according to the terms of the settlement.
“I’m extremely blessed to have Haiden,” Pruden-Rivera told the Daily Herald in 2013. “He’s definitely changed my life for the better. I can’t imagine not having him. I’d rather have him how he is — good days, bad days, all the hospital visits. I’d rather have him as he is now than not have him at all.”
A new conservator was put in charge of the child’s estate after Pruden-Rivera was removed, and he has sued the bank for letting the improper spending happen, the Lansing State Journal reports.
“The improper use of the (money) should never have occurred,” David Brake, who filed the lawsuit, told the newspaper.
Pruden-Rivera has now lost custody of both her children to her ex-husband, the Lansing State Journal reports. They had been taken from her originally when rotten food, filth, dirty diapers and animal feces were discovered all over Pruden-Rivera’s home, court records said.