A woman convicted for stealing from her elderly companion faced justice today. She was the subject of a Contact 13 Investigation that exposed corruption in our guardianship system.
"In my heart I know I'm not guilty," Helen Natko told the judge in court Monday. "Those accusing me without evidence know I'm not guilty. My family and friends know I'm not guilty. And my God knows I'm not guilty."
But in April, Natko was found guilty by jury of theft and exploitation of a vulnerable person. The victim was her long-time companion Del Mencarelli who passed away in the summer of 2015. Natko was appointed Del's guardian prior to his death.
"In the criminal justice system we view cases by the totality of the circumstances at sentencing," Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney J.P. Raman told the court. "And those circumstances in this case warrant prison."
Raman said the totality includes isolating Del from his family, berating him in public and making bad decisions about Del's medical needs.
"She uses Del like a political football for her own financial purposes," Raman said.
Natko raised suspicions when she transferred nearly $200,000 out of a joint account. Natko returned the money but that's when Del's daughter, Terri Black, tried to protect her father leading to a guardianship case.
"That began our 4 year odyssey of pain and sorrow that continues to this day for my family," says Terri.
She says the most painful part was not having quality time with her father in his final days.
Judge William Kephart told Helen lack of communication was a serious problem.
"When you knew if it was totally his, you should of contacted the family," Kephart said.
With that, Judge Kephart sentenced Natko to 5 years probation, a $10,000 fine and told 'no gambling allowed.'
Terri says she thinks Helen deserves some prison time but accepts the judge's decision.
"Today...this is the end," says Terri. "This is where we can have closure and know that we did everything in our human ability to be able to protect my dad."
Now that Natko is convicted of theft and exploitation, she's disqualified to be a guardian under new laws passed since Contact 13 exposed problems in the guardianship system.