Anchorage couple sentenced for emptying son's trust fund

Casey Grove

An Anchorage couple will spend nearly four years behind bars for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from their adopted son.

Edward Drones, 62, and his wife Lori Wiley-Drones, 57, pleaded guilty in January to five counts of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return. On Tuesday, a judge sentenced each of the Drones to 46 months in prison.

The state of Alaska took custody of the boy away from his abusive and neglectful father and put him into foster care with the couple in 1996, when the boy was 5 or 6 years old. They adopted him in 2001 and sued the state in 2005 for "failure to protect," saying he should not have been living with his father.

In settling the lawsuit, the state paid the boy about $824,000, which was put into a trust fund just before he turned 18, according to the indictment. The trust's court-appointed conservator balked when the Droneses said the boy wanted to buy the family's house, and the couple ultimately had Edward Drones appointed as the conservator, according to a written statement Wednesday from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"When Edward Drones assumed control of the child's trust fund in December 2009, he assured the state court that he understood his obligation to keep the child's property separate from his own and never to use the child's property for his own benefit," the federal prosecutors' statement says.

But the couple spent about $1,000 a day during the first month in control of the trust fund, the prosecutors said. According to a sentencing memorandum, they bought a house in Washington state for $220,000, vehicles totalling about $67,000, and jewelry worth more than $38,000, the indictment says. About $128,000 went to credit card bills. They left $15.05 in A.D.'s trust fund, the prosecutors said.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Judge Sharon Gleason crafted a sentence to reflect the emotional damage the Droneses inflicted on A.D.

"... By decimating their adoptive son's trust fund, the Drones destroyed his ability to trust people, which was an attribute all the more precious because of the trauma he had endured in early life," the prosecutors' statement says. " The judge noted that the sentence she imposed reflected that this fraud was particularly damaging: The victim's biological father compromised his childhood, and then the (Droneses) compromised his future -- and for things like Coach Purses, fine jewelry, clothes and cars."

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