Antoine Willis never gave his uncle permission to open bank accounts to help pay for his medical costs after he was burned by his mother's boyfriend, the 19-year-old told police.
That's because he doesn't trust his uncle, the young man said.
Now, the uncle, Jeffrey Allen Stewart
, 44, and Willis' mother, Jodi Ann Stewart
, 40, are suspected of taking $2,500 in donations for Willis and spending it on gambling and drugs, according to Dakota County criminal complaints filed Tuesday against the pair.
"It's hard to think of a more significant breach of trust than the actions that are alleged to have occurred here," Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said.
Willis' uncle and mother each face a felony charge of theft by swindle.
Prosecutors plan to charge Jeffrey Stewart of South St. Paul as a "career offender" because of his long criminal past, Backstrom said. He could face up to five years in prison if convicted.
"It's a very sad situation," Backstrom said. "I want to wish the young burn victim all the best in his recovery. He's got to be going through a terrible strain both physically and emotionally because of what's happened to him."
At a July 22 news conference attended by his mother and uncle, Willis recounted the events of that night.
Backstrom said Willis "did not encourage" his mother and uncle to create the accounts.
Jeffrey Stewart set up the accounts at two banks in South St. Paul and Woodbury while Willis was still in the hospital being treated for his burns, the complaints said.
Willis told police he never gave his uncle permission to set up the accounts. Willis also refused to sign paperwork his uncle gave him to start the account, the complaints said.
But without his permission, Stewart opened the accounts designated and advertised as "benefits" to assist Willis with medical expenses
, the complaints said.
Willis soon learned the public was donating to the accounts.
He also discovered that his mother and uncle had withdrawn $1,500 from the account at the South St. Paul and $1,000 from the Woodbury account, the charges said.
Jeffrey Stewart admitted withdrawing the money, police said.
He told police it was Jodi Stewart who wanted to take the money to pay for an apartment for Willis, the complaints said. But she was upset that Willis would use the money for other purposes. So instead, they went to the casino
, Jeffrey Stewart said.
Jeffrey Stewart, who is unemployed, wanted to use some of the money to gamble, he told authorities. The rest of the money went for drugs for Jodi Stewart
, he said.
It was unclear Tuesday if there's any money left in the accounts, Backstrom said.
Jodi Stewart's former boyfriend, Reed, was scheduled to appear in court Nov. 7 on the first-degree assault charge.