LA MARQUE — A Galveston County grand jury on Thursday indicted Shirley Fanuiel on a charge of felony theft from an elderly person. Fanuiel is a longtime trustee of the La Marque school district.
Fanuiel is accused of defrauding an 88-year-old La Marque man out of his house and an annuity, the district attorney’s office said. Fanuiel did not return phone calls or emails on Thursday.
The alleged theft occurred between 2009 and 2013, District Attorney Jack Roady said.
The indictment accuses Fanuiel of illegally obtaining the house of Wade Watkins. She is also accused of illegally obtaining Watkins’ annuity.
Watkins, a former executive chef for Gaido’s, became a ward of Galveston County Social Services in 2011 because of diminished mental capacity, the district attorney’s office said.
The indictment contends that Fanuiel obtained power of attorney from Watkins and transferred ownership of Watkins’ house in the 2600 block of Rosalee into her name.
County tax records show that Fanuiel owns nine properties in La Marque and Galveston. One of those properties includes her homestead in the 1800 block of Rosalee.
County records show Watkins was the owner of the house, but the ownership was transferred to Fanuiel in 2009. The value of the house at the time Fanuiel took ownership was about $50,000, according to records.
Sometime before Watkins’ death last year, Fanuiel used power of attorney to get control of an annuity, the indictment alleges.
The total value of the residential property and annuity is between $100,000 and $200,000, Roady said.
A pair of attorneys and some residents went to the district attorney’s office’s Major Fraud Division to report the allegations.
District Judge Kerry Neves set Fanuiel’s bond at $60,000. She had not been booked into the county jail Thursday night.
Fanuiel, 64, was first elected to the La Marque school board in 1995. She is a retired economist who worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In her 18 years on the school board, she has been the most outspoken critic of its superintendents Adrain Johnson and Ecomet Burley. She’s campaigned on her attention to financial dealings of the school district.
Two years ago she was almost forced off the board when she did not properly fill out her application for re-election. While she was not allowed to be on the ballot, no one ran for the seat, and the school board voted to reappoint her.
School board President Nakisha Paul said Fanuiel informed board members of “legal issues pending” on Wednesday but did not go into detail.
“We don’t have the full story,” Paul said. “It is not LMISD-related, and until I can get a full story of what is going on ... then I can better address it, but I just don’t have enough information.”