Woman charged with taking advantage of vulnerable adult

Published 4:00 pm Friday, October 31, 2008

An Austin woman has been accused of taking advantage of a vulnerable adult, including writing checks from her account to pay bills at a church were her son is the pastor.

Jacqueline Mae Synoground, 69, a member of Freedom Church, is charged with three felonies: financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and two counts of theft.

According to court documents, three Austin police officers received a general intake summary from Mower County Human Services (MCHS) on June 19, 2007 regarding the financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

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A staff person with MCHS who she had worked with the victim for several years, and a staff person from Mower County Council for the Handicapped who was named the victim’s emergency conservator, met with officers.

They explained the victim had an IQ of 67 and low non-verbal reasoning and arithmetic skills, also saying the victim was susceptible to suggestion. The victim could not hold a job, was divorced and could not manage her own finances.

Because MCHS was not able to offer the victim financial management services, the victim suggested a woman from her church, the defendant, be put in authority.

An IRA check was sent to the defendant and a joint, two-signature account was set up at a bank with a balance of $20,000, records show.

In the account ledger, 30 checks were allegedly recorded from March 20 to June 4, 2007; 49 had been written. The balance was $11,300, which would mean about $8,700 could have been spent in 11 weeks.

Court documents state $2,900 had been written for clothes, services and other items; $3,100 had been written for cash. Some checks had not been endorsed; some had been endorsed by other individuals; and one check had been endorsed by the victim. The Council for the Handicapped learned Synoground may have been commingling accounts for the victim and the victim’s adult son.

Checks in the amounts of $442 and $100 were reportedly paid to Freedom Church for utilities because of a delinquent balance at the church.

Rory Synoground, 38, the defendant’s son, church pastor and founder of Rory Synoground Ministries International, confirmed the defendant had a leadership position in the church, and counseled both her and the victim about what their relationship would be with each other.

A check was written for approximately $600 to Keenan’s clothing store in Austin, where an employee confirmed two women came in and bought a suit, which Rory Synoground said was his. He said he was not aware the victim was the congregation member who had purchased the suit, and said he had announced the gift publicly to the congregation. He said it is not unusual for church members to “bless him” with shirts and ties.

Four checks for $60 each were allegedly written from the victim’s account to the church; the pastor said the church believes in a 10 percent tithing rule.

Rory Synoground said because the church had given the victim assistance before, it was a “give and take relationship,” and told officers the situation was “blown out of proportion,” court records show.

The victim told police the defendant had been allowing her $25 per week in spending money, and had only purchased groceries two or three times. She ate one meal a day at the Salvation Army.

Bail for the defendant was set a $75,000 or $25,000 with conditions.

She is scheduled to appear in Mower County Court on Dec. 8.